Triggs was a lock for the rotation before Mengden’s injury

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Aug 28, 2016; St. Louis, MO, USA; Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Andrew Triggs (60) pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals during the second inning at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 28, 2016; St. Louis, MO, USA; Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Andrew Triggs (60) pitches against the St. Louis Cardinals during the second inning at Busch Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports /
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Young right-hander Daniel Mengden spent a couple of stints with the A’s in 2016 and so did another righty, Andrew Triggs. Both were considered to be in the running for fifth spot in the A’s starting rotation.

Mengden, the kid with the Rollie Fingers stache, who will turn 24 later this month, will no longer be in the running for the fifth spot in the Oakland Athletics rotation in 2017.

Unfortunately, Mengden injured his foot during a bullpen session on January 31 and was forced to undergo surgery to correct the injury.

As you can imagine, it only gets worse for the young player from there. He apparently fractured the medial tibial sesamoid bone.

Oakland Athletics
Sep 15, 2016; Kansas City, MO, USA; Oakland Athletics pitcher Daniel Mengden (67) delivers a pitch against the Kansas City Royals during the second inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports /

A’s Dr. Kevin Varner performed the surgical procedure which included a sesamoidectomy, or the complete removal of the sesamoid bone.

These types of injuries and subsequent surgeries often keep athletes out of their sports for significant periods of time.

Mengden is expected to be in a walking cast for at least six weeks, throwing him out of training camp and the running for the fifth rotation spot.

After that, these types of injuries can take three months at a minimum to recover from but usually take much longer than that. The Athletics have not yet given a timeline for Mengden’s return to baseball activities.

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Still, Mengden was somewhat of a long shot to make the rotation. He was in the running for the fifth spot after Sonny Gray, Kendall Graveman, Sean Manaea and most likely Jharel Cotton will be taking up the first four.

Mengden actually should’ve been considered more of a long shot than 27-year-old pitcher Andrew Triggs, who was recently called a “dark horse” to make the rotation by MLB.com’s Jane Lee. Lee calls Triggs a “dark horse” yet it was more Mengden’s spot to win than to lose.

Mengden was, to put it nicely, less than consistent in his rookie season. He did spectacularly in his first four starts for the ballclub, posting a 2.81 ERA and striking out 26 batters in 25.2 innings pitched.

Yet after that things went awry for the 23-year-old. Over his next ten starts he went 1-6 with an 8.55 ERA in just 46.1 innings pitched. His strikeout numbers remained the same, he struck out 45 batters over that span but hitters were still somehow batting .315 against him with a .396 on-base percentage.

He wasn’t even allowing that many more walks at the time, but his strikeout to walk ratio did diminish. Obviously the sample sizes were different but something changed for Mengden between his first four starts and his final ten.

His control was waning but hitters were also simply just making more contact with his pitches. Neither of which is exactly desireable in a big league pitcher. Mengden finished out the season with a 6.50 ERA.

Triggs on the other hand, started the season out in the bullpen and, later on as the A’s pitching injuries mounted, was moved into a starting role. He proved to be much better as a starter than as a reliever.

Oakland Athletics
Aug 16, 2016; Arlington, TX, USA; Oakland Athletics relief pitcher Andrew Triggs (60) pitches against the Texas Rangers during the first inning at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports /

Triggs, who will turn 28 in March, made his big league debut in 2016 at a much older age than some of his competition (or former competition) for the fifth spot in the Athletics’ 2017 starting rotation. Those names included Mengden and still include Raul Alcantara and Frankie Montas.

Triggs showed last season that he was meant for a starting role. He made a total of 24 appearances for the A’s. Over his first ten appearances, Triggs posted an 8.00 ERA, which obviously is more than a bit high. However, just one of those appearances was a start and in that start Triggs allowed just one run.

Beginning with his eleventh big league appearance through Monday, August 22, 2016, Triggs posted a 2.30 ERA over 12 more outings with the big league club, the final three of which had all been starts.

During his time with the A’s Triggs also set an Oakland club record for being called up from and sent back to down Triple-A the more times than any other player since 1968.

This led A’s skipper Bob Melvin to say during his postgame press conference that Monday night that Triggs would be remaining in the starting rotation through the end of the 2016 season.

"“You feel for him because he’s such a good soldier about going up and down and appreciates the opportunity he gets. You can’t help but pull for a guy who’s a great team guy and he performed. He’s performing even better in the rotation,” Melvin said."

In his next start on August 28, he pitched six innings, allowing just four hits and three runs while striking out a career-high eight batters in the Athletics’ 7-4 win over the St. Louis Cardinals.

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Triggs finished the 2016 season with an overall 4.31 ERA but when starting his ERA was closer to 3.00, which is more than good enough to be a team’s number five starter.

So it appears that really Triggs was never much of a “dark horse” after all.

If he performs as well as he did while starting much of the second half of 2016 in training camp next month, it’s doubtful that he will be left off the 25-man roster, especially with this recent injury to Mengden.

Putting Triggs in the starting five also allows the A’s the option to not feel the need to rush any of the younger players up to the big leagues, something vice president of baseball operations Billy Beane has repeatedly noted is something he doesn’t want to do.

So, while Mengden, Montas and Alcantara may end up in the A’s starting rotation in future seasons, there is little doubt that the almost 28-year-old Triggs will begin 2017 in the number five spot.

Next: 2017 A's pre-spring catching preview

What kind of legacy will A’s vice president of baseball operations leave on the game of baseball?

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