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Lefty JP Sears inserted into A’s rotation, ‘excited’ for opportunity

San Francisco Chronicle logo San Francisco Chronicle 8/13/2022 By Matt Kawahara
OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - AUGUST 10: JP Sears #38 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Los Angeles Angels in the top of the first inning at RingCentral Coliseum on August 10, 2022 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) © Thearon W. Henderson / Getty Images

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - AUGUST 10: JP Sears #38 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Los Angeles Angels in the top of the first inning at RingCentral Coliseum on August 10, 2022 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

HOUSTON — Pitcher JP Sears learned he’d been traded to the Oakland Athletics at Hole 10 of a Scranton, Pa., golf course, where he was spending the Aug. 1 off-day for the Yankees’ Triple-A affiliate.

“I was literally standing over a shot, like about to pull the trigger, and my phone rang,” Sears said.

Sears, the 26-year-old left-hander, knew his name might come up in trade talks leading up to the deadline. The Yankees were expected to load up for a run at the World Series. Sears was up-and-down between Triple-A and New York, where he made his major-league debut April 13 and owned a 2.05 ERA in 22 innings.

On the phone was Yankees general manager Brian Cashman: Sears was one of four prospects being sent to the A’s for Frankie Montas and Lou Trivino.

“It was a couple hours of being surprised and … not really knowing what to think,” Sears said. “And then I just thought about the opportunity. And I’m excited about coming to a team like this, where hopefully I can provide some value and just try to do my job and get outs and get wins.”

Sears, who made his A’s debut Wednesday after Paul Blackburn (inflamed middle finger) was placed on the IL, will remain in the rotation for now, manager Mark Kotsay said. Zach Logue will be recalled from Triple-A to start on Saturday in Houston, rounding out the rotation with Cole Irvin, James Kaprielian and Adam Oller. The A’s plan to stay with that group at least “for the next week or two,” Kotsay said.

As the last-place A’s focus more on roster evaluation, their new rotation includes three starters acquired via 2022 trades. Oller, who started Friday’s opener in Houston, arrived from the Mets in the Chris Bassitt deal. Logue was acquired from the Blue Jays in the Matt Chapman trade.

Sears, drafted by the Mariners and traded to the Yankees in 2017, started and relieved in the Yankees’ system but considers himself a starter. Shoulder injuries limited him in 2018 and 2019 and he wasn’t part of the Yankees’ alternate site in the short 2020 season. Instead, he trained in Charleston, S.C., his offseason home and where he attended college at The Citadel.

Getting help from pitching coach Daniel Moskos (then in the Yankees’ system) and a few former college teammates, Sears worked on “cleaning up my arm action and cleaning up my mechanics.”

“I think he helped me a lot with using my lower half the right way, using good mechanics to try and take a lot of the weight off my arm and off my shoulder,” Sears said. “I felt that I bounced back a lot quicker after my outings. I felt like it was kind of an uphill battle before then trying to get my body back where it should be, and that kind of ends up snowballing over a long season.”

Last year, Sears posted a 3.46 ERA with 136 strikeouts in 104 innings between Double- and Triple-A. He had a 1.67 ERA in 43 innings for the Yankees’ Triple-A affiliate this season before the trade.

His 20 outings this season between Triple-A and the majors have comprised 75 innings. Kotsay said the A’s will mind Sears’ workload and a need to build his pitch count. Sears threw 72 pitches across 5 ⅓ innings in his A’s debut. That Sears reached the sixth on a pitch limit showed “a mentality to challenge hitters,” Kotsay said.

Sears began his MLB career with 12 ⅓ scoreless innings over three separate stints for the Yankees. It appears he’ll get a more prolonged look in his first call-up by Oakland, which arrived less than two weeks after the call that diverted his career route — if not his day on the golf course.

“I had one of the best rounds I had this year and, like, in my life,” Sears said. “When I got that phone call, I was trying to keep it together for the rest of the eight holes after that and I did … Hope to be locked in the rest of the year here, too.”

Matt Kawahara covers the A’s for The San Francisco Chronicle.

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