03/15/2013 8:45 PM ET
Balfour expected to make debut on Monday
By Jane Lee / MLB.com
PHOENIX -- Barring any unforeseen setbacks, A's closer Grant Balfour will make his Cactus League debut on Monday.
The veteran right-hander made this known just minutes after throwing 24 pitches to hitters on Friday, marking the second time he had done so since undergoing minor knee surgery four weeks ago.
Balfour followed up the session with a round of running drills, and he said his knee responded to both very well. In fact, "my knee's just kind of a thing of the past now," he said.
"Obviously I have to take care of it," Balfour continued, "but I really haven't been thinking about it. I'm just out there worried about hitting my spots with my fastball and throwing that breaking ball for a strike."
Balfour made use of all of his pitches on Friday, never once inducing a hard-hit ball. That didn't mean he was happy with all of them, though, as his mound manners suggested. More than once the fiery right-hander shared an expletive when a pitch strayed from his target, just as he would during the regular season.
"I treat it like any game and try to get myself fired up," he said. "I'm sure they're not taking at-bats like they would in a game, but for the most part the ball's coming out of my hand good, and I felt like I was getting late swings on my fastball. I even threw it by a couple guys. I like that when they take a pitch that I spot up, I know that I made a good pitch."
Hiroyuki Nakajima was among those who faced Balfour, who he had never seen pitch before. The shortstop said Balfour is "very much intimidating" and he's glad "he's on our side."
"After seeing him pitch, I'm now skeptical he even had surgery," Nakajima joked.
Balfour will have two weeks of preseason action to prepare for the regular season, just as he drew it up following his procedure.
"That's plenty of time," he said.
Colon, Melvin pleased with latest spring outing
PHOENIX -- No doubt Bartolo Colon is throwing his typical array of strikes this spring. But it seems more than usual are resulting in hits.
Colon's offered up 22, to be exact. That's spanning 11 innings, and no other American League pitcher has surrendered as many in 11 or fewer frames. The White Sox's John Danks is next closest with 16 in 7 2/3 innings.
On Friday, while facing the D-backs, Colon gave up six hits in four innings, allowing two runs to bring his spring total to nine. That's not what the A's are looking at, though.
"They got some decent swings off him," manager Bob Melvin said, "but he used all of his pitches and got his pitch count right where he wanted it, so that's pretty much what we're looking for.
"He looks like Bartolo to me, throwing a lot of strikes, getting his work in, preparing for a season and actually probably throwing more breaking balls at times than I've seen. He's a veteran guy that's always looking to get better, and if he feels he needs to find a different complement, he's not afraid to make adjustments."
Melvin said results aren't as important for such a veteran pitcher as is velocity, and so far there's been no concern in that regard.
Colon, who will turn 40 in May, won't be around the first week of the regular season, as he serves the final five games of his drug suspension. But he is expected to slot into the back of the rotation once eligible to begin making good on the $3 million contract Oakland awarded him this offseason.
Blackley remaining confident in work despite results
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Inconsistency has hurt Travis Blackley this spring, but the lefty's still hopeful it won't do the same for his chances of making the team.
That's because Blackley is actually happy with how he's been throwing, particularly after shaking off a bout of forearm tightness in the early going. The numbers, as is the case for many pitchers during spring, just aren't telling the whole story.
Blackley has 11 earned runs to his name in just 4 2/3 innings spanning four outings. But in two of those, he didn't even allow one run. In between, though, he gave up seven runs in 1 1/3 innings and, most recently, four runs in 1/3 of an inning.
"I've been surprised lately with results, just because I've been feeling like I've been making pitches," Blackley said. "It's frustrating, really, because you want to see results. It helps your confidence mostly, but I've experienced some bad games plenty times and been able to bounce back in the past. I don't get too high or too low, so it's easy for me to put the bad ones behind me, which is something I really didn't learn until a year or two ago."
Blackley proved to be an invaluable weapon for the A's last year, providing quality work as both a starter and reliever. It's such versatility that will likely earn Blackley a roster spot as a long-relief option. He's also out of options, which will only help his chances of remaining on the team.
The 30-year-old southpaw will be back on the mound Saturday for a start against the Angels, and it's there where he wants to continue showcasing the work he's put in this spring -- and maybe walk away with matching results.
"I'm just trying to work on the things that I'm going to need for the season, and that's my sinker down and away for strikes, not bouncing my curveball," he said. "If I have both of those pitches working, it's going to be a good day."
"There are times, on the days he's struggled," manager Bob Melvin said, "when he's thrown really good pitches and maybe just isn't as consistent at times. It's about being more consistent, and that's what he's working toward."
• Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson was back in A's camp on Friday, aiding in a handful of baserunning drills. He'll be around camp every so often, as he's done in years past, and will continue to help in Minor League camp, as well.
"As much time as we get with him, whether it's now or in the season, we try to tailor it around base running," Melvin said. "A guy like that automatically commands respect out of guys, based on what he did."
• Though such actions are normally reserved for the regular season, manager Bob Melvin showed no hesitation in charging out of the dugout to share some words with home plate umpire Jonathan Saphire in the eighth inning of Friday's 2-2 tie against the D-backs.
Melvin was arguing that Adam Rosales, racing home from third base on Grant Green's potential sacrifice fly to center field, was safe at the plate, after Saphire called him out to end the inning.
"We got some guys battling there," Melvin said. "Rosie's sliding head first, his whole hand on the plate, Green's putting together a good at-bat to try to get the run in. I know it's bad form at times in Spring Training, but when you have some emotion inside you and you're pulling for your guys, you go out there and do something like that.
"He was safe. I could see from where I was."
• Second baseman Jemile Weeks made his first start since March 1 on Friday and went 0-for-2 with a walk. Weeks is returning from a bruised right shoulder, and although he has plenty of at-bats to make up in the final two weeks of preseason action, Melvin still plans to give all of his second-base candidates equal playing time.
Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.