OAKLAND - No one wants to start the season in the minor leagues. Especially not someone like Daniel Mengden, who has already achieved some success at the major league level.
Unfortunately, that's the situation the A's 26-year-old right-handed pitcher found himself in back in March. Oakland optioned Mengden to Triple-A Las Vegas and named Aaron Brooks as the No. 5 starter to begin the season.
"I wasn't too happy about it, but it's one of those things where you kind of just suck it up and deal with it," Mengden told NBC Sports California. "I knew I was going to be back eventually. My mindset going down was, what can I do to get better and how can I work on whatever I need to get back up here?"
Mengden performed well in Las Vegas, going 3-2 with a 2.77 ERA and 1.10 WHIP. He was rewarded with a call-up earlier this month and will make his fourth start Wednesday afternoon against the Angels.
"He pitched really well (in Triple-A)," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "He pitched well last year. He pitched really well at times the year before. He has the ability to go deep in games. ... It's just about consistency for him because, when he's on, he's really good. He's a younger pitcher still but we like him a lot.
"Hopefully, he pitches well enough to stay because, when he's pitching well, he's about as good as anybody we have."
Last season, Mengden went 7-6 with a 4.05 ERA and 1.12 WHIP in 22 games, including 17 starts. He put up even better numbers in seven starts the year before, going 3-2 with a 3.14 ERA and 1.05 WHIP.
Mengden's first three outings this year have been a bit of a mixed bag. He struggled with his control in two of the games, walking a combined nine hitters in 9 1/3 innings. Still, he has maintained an ERA of 3.31.
"It's a great opportunity that I have," Mengden said. "I know what I have to do to be successful. It's all about just going out there, getting strike one, and going from there, and having a good plan and executing it."
When Mengden is on his game, you could make the argument that he's the A's best starter, as Melvin noted. In back-to-back starts against Toronto and Arizona last season, Mengden tossed 16 shutout innings, allowing just four hits and one walk. The key for him, as Melvin also pointed out, is consistency.
For now, Mengden is glad to be back in Oakland, and for more than just the obvious reason of being in the majors. The Pacific Coast League in Triple-A is notorious for its hitter-friendly ballparks.
"There's nothing better than a good pitcher's park and Oakland might be one of the best, if not the best," Mengden smiled. "Some of the parks (in the PCL) are a little smaller and the ball flies pretty well. We saw some pretty cheap homers down there in Vegas but that's all part of the game. It's part of the ballpark and you have to deal with it."
Now back in the A's rotation, Mengden hopes to avoid those PCL ballparks for the remainder of his career.