Programming note: For all the latest baseball news from spring training, watch Raising Arizona every Tuesday night at 6:30 and 10 p.m. only on Comcast SportsNet Bay Area
PHOENIX – Bob Melvin bounced from diamond to diamond Thursday afternoon at Papago Park, as the Oakland A’s manager tried to catch as much of his team’s activity as possible.
It was the first full-squad workout for the A’s, and with pitchers on the mound and hitters digging in at the plate in batting practice, the atmosphere took on a more realistic baseball feel. It’s tough to glean too much from one day, but Melvin singled out Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone and Josh Lindblom as pitchers who stood out.
“Pitchers are always gonna be ahead of the hitters,” Melvin said. “Parker threw good. Lindblom threw the ball really well. (Milone) threw the ball really well. (Josh) Donaldson was taunting him and couldn’t put him in play, so (Milone) got the last laugh there.”
Hitters typically don’t swing very much on the first day of live batting practice, choosing to simply track pitches instead. But Donaldson was hacking away aggressively against Milone and Evan Scribner. Another hitter who wasted no time – top prospect Addison Russell. He swung at the first pitch he saw from right-hander Jeremy McBryde and lined a shot into right-center.
Yoenis Cespedes hit in the same group as Donaldson and Coco Crisp, and his progress throughout the spring will be worth monitoring as he works to shorten his swing in an effort to cut down on the 137 strikeouts he compiled last season.
“We’ve seen it at times,” Melvin said of Cespedes’ more controlled approach. “I think last year he got caught up in some bad habits, trying to do too much to play catch-up after a bit of a slow start and some injuries. I think it’s more just trying to stay in a routine that’s consistent, and obviously health will have a lot to do with that.”
Lefty reliever Eric O’Flaherty said he’s pleased with his current progress from the Tommy John elbow surgery he underwent last May while with the Atlanta Braves. O’Flaherty is playing long toss at a distance of 150 feet, and he’s hopeful of getting on the mound soon.
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The A’s won’t be rushing O’Flaherty since he will begin the season on the 60-day disabled list. Look for a midseason debut from the lefty, who was signed to a two-year $7 million contract in January. In his absence, the competition is on to be the second lefty in Oakland’s bullpen behind Sean Doolittle. Fernando Abad and Joe Savery, recently claimed off waivers from Philadelphia, are the leading candidates.
Right-hander A.J. Griffin is sporting a long mop of hair like usual, and he joked that he’s going to take the mound in a ponytail this season, a visual that made Melvin chuckle.
“This has always been an organization that has embraced individuality and having some fun,” he said. “We won’t let it grow down to his belt, but you don’t want to cut Samson’s locks off either.”