Last season was one big lesson for Sean Manaea.
The long-haired left-hander was uprooted from the only big-league home he had ever known, traded to San Diego the week of Opening Day, and turned in the worst campaign of his career. Granted agency of his destination this offseason, the former Oakland A’s standout said Monday over Zoom that it was a “relatively easy decision” to return to the Bay Area — only across the bridge, with the Giants.
“I got to know the Bay Area pretty well, and I love a lot of things about it,” said Manaea, who signed a two-year, $25 million contract with an opt out after 2023, the exact terms given to San Francisco’s other rotation addition, Ross Stripling. “When they came to me with their pitch and how they run their organization … it kind of made it easy.”
Even easier: it’s where he met his long-term girlfriend, who is a local, and he can return to frequenting his two favorite breakfast spots: Sweet Maple, with locations around the Bay, and Devil’s Teeth Bakery, in the Sunset.
Manaea, however, was most interested in the Giants’ pitching department, led by Andrew Bailey and Brian Bannister. San Francisco has gained a reputation as a repair shop for pitchers, and Manaea is in need of a tune up. He has already started working on his mechanics at Driveline, a Seattle-based pitching program known for increasing velocity, interspersed, of course, with an offseason excursion to Antarctica.
In 158 innings for the Padres last season, Manaea went 8-9 with a career-worst 4.96 ERA, nearly a full run higher than his career 4.06 mark. He was worth minus-0.9 bWAR, the first season of his seven-year career with negative value. It came only a year after a 3.1-bWAR season in 2021 with Oakland, when he also set career-highs in starts (32), innings (179⅓) and strikeouts (194).
But, according to Manaea, the realization he had as a tough season drew to a close was, in fact, a long time coming.
Manaea used the words “lazy” and “lackadaisical” to describe his approach to the game dating even beyond his struggles last season. That they came under the increased scrutiny of a team expecting to contend, with Manaea under even brighter lights as a blue-chip trade acquisition, only made it more apparent to him that something had to change.
“There’s no excuses,” he said. “Being traded so late was definitely weird. I had never had anything like that happen to me and really had no time to adjust. … Overall last year was very, very underwhelming. I definitely learned a lot as far as myself as a man (and) as a baseball player, having expectations that I didn’t really have too much in Oakland.
“To be on a team like that and do as poorly as I did, I definitely learned a lot. Going into this season, I definitely have a lot of work to do to be where I think I need to be.”
Besides his work at Driveline, and eventually with the Giants’ pitching staff, Manaea said he needs to improve his routines, his diet, how he studies scouting reports, and his mechanics. He doesn’t plan to overhaul his sinker-slider-changeup pitch mix, but a little more depth on his changeup would go a long way against right-handers, he said.
Most of all, he hopes to find more consistent results. Manaea threw a no-hitter in 2018 — but also didn’t make it out of the fifth in four of his 27 starts that year. In 2022, the number was 10 out of 28.
“Pretty much throughout my whole career, there’s been some really good times and some really, really bad times,” Manaea said. “I think going forward is just to be as consistent as possible.
As far as his role with the Giants, who currently have seven capable starters, Manaea didn’t receive the same assurances as Stripling that he would be in the rotation. However, his two relief appearances last season were only the second and third of his career.
If he’s lucky, maybe his turn in the rotation will come up on the last Tuesday or Wednesday of July, or the first weekend in August. That’s when the Giants face Manaea’s former A’s in the Bay Bridge Series, which the six-time participant said is “always crazy.”
“To be able to come back to the Bay and have all these familiarities,” he said, “it’s cool. Really cool.”
Comments are closed.