Triggs dark-horse candidate for rotation spot

A's, teammates pulling for righty, who debuted in '16 at age 27

Triggs dark-horse candidate for rotation spot

With Spring Training fast approaching, MLB.com will take a look at a different aspect of this year's A's squad each day this week. Today's topic: Who might surprise?

OAKLAND -- The A's will have no shortage of rotation candidates taking the stage when camp opens next week, which marks the beginning of perhaps the most intriguing competition amongst the green and gold.

Only two pitchers -- right-handers Sonny Gray and Kendall Graveman -- have spots locked up, though it's reasonable to group lefty Sean Manaea in there, too, following an impressive rookie campaign. Beyond those names, these come to mind: Jharel Cotton, Daniel Mengden, Raul Alcantara and Frankie Montas.

Which players might surprise for clubs in '17?

The list doesn't stop there, though, and many in the organization would argue that right-hander Andrew Triggs should be at the top.

Triggs fans Pedroia

Triggs isn't as young as his competition -- he made his big league debut at 27 last year and will celebrate a birthday in March -- and he never carried around the top prospect tag that has been attached to many of the aforementioned names. But he impressed enough last season to warrant consideration as the likeliest dark-horse candidate to crack the 25-man roster this spring.

"I'm really looking forward to going out there and proving them right," Triggs said. "I'm fired up, I really am. This is the first offseason where you feel like it's actually within reach if you go out and do your job. I still have to compete and zero is going to be handed to me, but the prospect of it is exciting, it's encouraging."

The 2016 regular season had not been over for 24 hours when A's executive vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane sang the praises of Triggs, the career Minor League reliever who found his footing in the big leagues as a starter in the second half. Beane did so again at the Winter Meetings, and those sentiments were echoed by manager Bob Melvin and teammates at FanFest last month.

"I'm really excited to see Andrew Triggs. I can't wait," catcher Stephen Vogt said. "That's a hard-working guy, somebody who really stood out as a starter. He really was a bright spot last year that never really got talked about, and knowing his work ethic and how much he wants it, and knowing he's going to be a starter and how he prepared over the winter, I'm really excited to see what he's going to do."

Triggs' solid start

Triggs' success with the A's wasn't immediate. Claimed off waivers from Baltimore in March, the right-hander struggled, posting an 8.00 ERA in 10 relief outings over his first four stints in the Majors. But in the four stints that followed -- his eight stints are believed to be most in one season in Oakland history -- Triggs thrived, pitching to a 2.58 ERA in his final 14 games, including six starts, before a back injury prematurely ended his season.

Triggs had a 2.81 ERA while holding opponents to a .191 average in his starting assignments, walking just one in 25 2/3 innings.

"It was nice to sort of settle back into that role and really take ownership of the game and know that the first time through is going to be different than the second time through and third," said Triggs, a starter in college at the University of Southern California. "It's more of a chess match, and I enjoy that.

"I think of myself as a pitcher, and if I happen to be pitching at the beginning of games regularly, great, but right now I'm trying to win a job wherever that might be. I'd be thrilled to win a job as a starter, but if they ask me to do something else, that's great, too."

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.