MESA, Arizona — The A’s have always believed Jharel Cotton has the stuff to be a top-of-the-line starter, it’s just a matter of consistency. It was an issue all last season. It’s an issue this spring.
After shining in his spring debut against the Padres last week, tossing two hitless innings with five strikeouts, Cotton was roughed up in a 9-4 loss to the Rangers Thursday for four runs on five hits and two walks in two innings of work.
“That’s the consistency we’ve been talking about,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “You want him to follow up a good outing with another one and take the confidence that he had from the time before. He just couldn’t do it today.”
When Cotton is at his best, he’s usually getting ahead in the count, which allows him to build confidence and make things difficult for hitters with his exceptional changeup. That didn’t happen against the Rangers.
Cotton constantly found himself falling behind in the count, with a fastball he said he did not have a good feel for in the game.
Despite the subpar outing, Cotton was pleased with the way he was able to throw his changeup for strikes, a pitch he often shied away from even throwing last season when things got out of hand early in a game.
“The positive was my changeup. I threw it a lot for strikes and I’m proud of that,” Cotton said. “The fastball will come the more I throw it, but I just want my changeup there start to start. I had a positive with that today.”
Melvin was glad to see Khris Davis hit a grand slam, his second consecutive game with a home run, but Cotton’s poor start set the tone for what was really the first bad game the A’s have played this spring.
Entering the day with only two errors through their first six games, the A’s committed four errors on the day, including three in one inning. The A’s led MLB in errors last year with 121.
“It’s something we’re working hard on trying to cut down on and certainly it doesn’t sit well. The game in general was not a good game for us,” Melvin said. “Thank God KD hit a grand slam or else it could have been really ugly.”