Manaea eager for chance to swing bat

A's young pitcher set for Interleague start in Milwaukee

Manaea eager for chance to swing bat

HOUSTON -- Don't let Sean Manaea's size fool you. It wasn't long ago the 6-foot-5 pitcher was scared of the ball, a fear born in Little League when he was hit by a pitch on his back.

Ever since, "I never cared for hitting," Manaea said.

The A's lefty has changed his tune, though, as he preps for his Major League hitting debut in Milwaukee on Tuesday. Manaea, a self-proclaimed "terrible" hitter in high school, is actually looking forward to it, after crafting a swing and honing his skills in the cage during recent weeks.

He even managed to homer twice at the Coliseum during a round of batting practice.

"Everybody's minds were blown, just because they saw me out there the first time and thought I was the worst thing ever," said Manaea, 24.

"He has been progressing," manager Bob Melvin said, smiling. "The first couple times we looked at him, he was having a little difficulty, but he's gotten much better. For us, what we're really trying to accomplish is if we get guys on base, being able to bunt them over. Anything after that is probably gravy, as far as a guy getting a hit."

Manaea has been working with first-base coach Mike Aldrete to develop a compact swing good enough to at least make contact.

"That was always a struggle for me," Manaea said.

So much so that he barely sniffed the Mendoza Line in high school, batting .186. Asked by his teammates what he did when he wasn't pitching, he told them he played first base.

"And I got DH'd for while I was at first base," he said, laughing. "Pretty much everyone that was there busted out laughing. Some of the guys were on the floor just laughing at me.

"It's kind of embarrassing, but it is what it is."

Manaea, who will be opposed by Brewers right-hander Zach Davies, will have a handful of college roommates and teammates on hand for the event, all of them having already peppered him with jokes through texts. The Indiana State product doesn't necessarily expect to surprise them with a rousing display; he's just anxious to step in the box and see what 90 mph looks like.

The lefty insists his excitement makes up for the fact his name was spelled wrong -- Manea -- on the two bats that were ordered for him.

"It's kind of hard to spell," he said, "so I don't blame them."

Worth noting

• Right-hander Henderson Alvarez (shoulder) threw a 35-pitch bullpen on Saturday and "felt great," according to Melvin, who said the club is deliberating on his next step.

• Melvin also had positive news on rehabbing righty Liam Hendriks. The reliever, nursing a triceps strain, had no issues throwing to hitters Saturday.

"It had been awhile since he actually felt really good during this whole process," Melvin said. "So the fact that he went at it a little bit harder … anytime you face hitters, the intensity scoots up a little bit, but he felt good afterward."

• The A's optioned right-hander J.B. Wendelken to Triple-A Nashville on Sunday to make room for starter Sonny Gray. Wendelken did not make an appearance during his two-day stint with Oakland.

Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.