Pair of A's prospects impress in return to mound

Covey, Montas show off their talents in Fall League action

Pair of A's prospects impress in return to mound

MESA, Ariz. -- A pair of Oakland Athletics pitching prospects impressed in their respective returns to the mound on Friday in Arizona Fall League action, as right-handers Dylan Covey and Frankie Montas combined to toss seven strong innings to help Mesa defeat Surprise, 10-4.

For Covey, Friday's start marked his first since May 8, when he tore his left oblique in just his sixth start for Double-A Midland. The A's No. 19 prospect yielded two earned runs on four hits in four innings, walking one and striking out five. He also recorded four ground-ball outs in the outing while throwing 41 of his 62 pitches for strikes.

"I'm sore," joked Covey, who finished the regular season with a 1.84 ERA in 29 1/3 innings. "It's been a while since I've done that, so of course I'm going to be a little sore. But within the last four weeks or so, I haven't noticed anything unusual [with my oblique]. I've had full range of motion without any soreness or tightness."

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Meanwhile, Covey's performance against Surprise only reaffirmed that he's fully healthy. The 25-year-old right-hander, the A's fourth-round Draft pick in 2013, sat comfortably in the 92-94 mph range with his sinker and consistently commanded it down in the zone while also showing the ability to pitch to both sides of the plate.

As for his secondary offerings, Covey did a nice job executing his tight, 85-88 mph slider, as he showed feel for throwing it for a strike early in counts before taking it out of the zone when vying for swing-and-misses. His split-change was equally effective in the outing, registering at 80-82 mph with late diving action that helped him evade the barrels of both right- and left-handed hitters.

Top Prospects: Covey, OAK

"With the way I grip the pitch, it's not a true split," noted Covey. "But over the years I've gotten really comfortable with it and how to create the kind of movement it has now."

Montas, the A's No. 10 prospect, entered the game in the sixth inning and impressed with three scoreless innings of three-hit ball. The 23-year-old notched one strikeout and four ground-ball outs and was consistently around the zone, throwing 23 of his 29 pitches for strikes.

"I was off for a couple of months" said Montas,"but to be back and pitching again, it feels great. I feel 100 percent right now. I'm ready to go."

Known for his elite fastball velocity, Montas' trademark heater sat in the high 90s and even touched 100 mph on Friday.

"People always talk about how I'm a hard thrower," he said. "But I don't really focus on trying to throw hard. I just try to go out there and compete and get outs."

Prior to Friday, Montas' last outing came on June 15 with the Dodgers' Triple-A affiliate in Oklahoma City. He was diagnosed with a broken rib shortly thereafter, an injury that had also delayed the start of his season until May 22. On Aug. 1, the A's acquired Montas, along with right-handers Grant Holmes and Jharel Cotton, from the Dodgers in exchange for Rich Hill and Josh Reddick. All together, Montas posted a 2.38 ERA across seven appearances (four starts), with 22 strikeouts and three walks in 16 innings.

Now finally healthy, Covey and Montas have their sights set on getting back on track, and staying healthy, in 2017. For both hurlers, a successful Arizona Fall League campaign represents an important next step in achieving that goal.

"I only threw 29 1/3 innings in the regular season, so I'm trying to build up my innings out here for next year so that I don't have a super-low innings limit when I come back for Spring Training," said Covey.

"Just getting my innings back that I missed during the season while also building up my arm and stuff," echoed Montas.

Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @GoldenSombrero. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.