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02/18/10 8:00 AM EST

Devine excited to be back in action

A's reliever missed all of '09 after Tommy John surgery

OAKLAND -- Joey Devine has already learned quite a few lessons in the four short years -- including just one full season -- he's spent in the big leagues.

First, there's the real estate advice he'd like to share with fellow relief corps members.

"I bought a house when I was playing with Atlanta," the A's reliever said. "Three weeks after I bought the house, I got traded. I learned a valuable lesson as a reliever in the big leagues. It's not very wise to buy a house where you're located."

Next were the lessons -- perhaps more so new perspectives -- that came along with being on the disabled list for all of last season.

"When I was away from those guys, I realized that's the first time in about 20 years I haven't been able to play baseball in the summer time," Devine said. "It definitely put things in perspective as far as what the game really means to me and how thankful I am to be able to put on a baseball uniform at this stage in my life."

Now just three days away from the A's first official workout for pitchers and catchers, Devine this week deemed himself ready for the rigors of Spring Training and "to just be one of the guys again."

That's big news from a guy who didn't pitch an inning last season. Devine, 26, was expected to share the closer's role, but he was sidelined with elbow pain and shut down after posting an 8.10 ERA in four spring games. His 2009 season was officially pushed aside in April when it was decided he needed Tommy John elbow ligament replacement surgery.

"It was extremely tough," he said, "just because I would sometimes just sit there and think about it, especially at the very beginning of the season when all my teammates were playing and I was back home rehabbing an arm."

Devine sat at the same home he mistakenly purchased on that day in Atlanta, knowing full well he'd probably be there awhile considering Tommy John patients usually need at least 12 months of recovery time.

As he approaches the 10-month mark, however, Devine is certain the work he's accomplished in that time will allow him to bypass the remaining two months of cautionary baseball activity. After enjoying a 10-day stay in Cabo San Lucas to celebrate his one-year anniversary with wife Erin, the couple packed up in December and found themselves in Arizona by the first week of January to allow Devine the opportunity to work with bullpen coach Ron Romanick and escape Atlanta's cold weather.

"It's been really good coming out here early," he said. "I feel great. I've already been throwing off the mound. I've thrown about six bullpens by now and every week is getting better, so I'm excited with Spring Training being here and knowing I'll get to face hitters again."

That said, Devine believes he should be able to perform at the same level as his fellow teammates thanks to a program that has allowed him to be "definitely ahead of schedule."

Said program includes stretching and conditioning followed by a throwing routine with Romanick and strengthening exercises in the weight room three days a week. On the other two days, Devine has been doing arm exercises while mixing in a variety of other weight room activities.

"It's five days a week," he said. "And that's basically what I've been doing the past six weeks. So I'll have zero restrictions. I'll be with everyone from stretching to our fielding practice to throwing bullpens. Everything."

Whereas the mundane routines of Spring Training often bore most players after a couple of weeks, Devine knows he won't be able to get enough of them. And his appreciation for the game assuredly extends to those who have kept close tabs on him over the past year.

"To be able to have the club back you up and give you confidence makes your mind at ease and really helps you focus on getting back," said Devine, who avoided arbitration with the A's in December by signing a one-year contract. "I tell you what, it's huge. It makes you really want to get back to help that team."

The A's will certainly be looking to Devine to aid an already strong bullpen that boasts American League Rookie of the Year winner Andrew Bailey, along with Michael Wuertz, Brad Ziegler and several others who are sure to make a competition out of bullpen slots.

"We have a great bunch of guys, and I'm just very thankful for the organization," Devine said. "It's been tough being on the disabled list, but it's part of the game and I'm just blessed to have an organization back me up the way they have."

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.