3/1/2014 8:14 P.M. ET
Burns takes advantage of his chance
By Jane Lee / MLB.com
PHOENIX -- Billy Burns wasn't even supposed to be in the lineup Saturday. Coco Crisp was scheduled to take his turn in center field, but then the rain came, and the A's decided it was best to keep the veteran off the wet grass.
So the kid got his chance, and all he did was collect two hits, two stolen bases, two outfield assists and score both of Oakland's runs in a 2-2 tie with the Rangers.
"If he didn't play today, we might have had a little trouble, huh?" manager Bob Melvin said, smiling.
"That was a lot of fun," said Burns. "I got the opportunity to play and wanted to make the best of it."
At this point, the 24-year-old paused and asked reporters, "Do you guys mind if I just untie my cleats? My feet are killing me."
Just as polite as he is fun to watch, Burns is making a quick impression in his first big league camp, following his December trade from the Nationals -- he was named their 2013 Minor League Player of the Year -- that sent Jerry Blevins to Washington.
For all he did Saturday, Burns was most proud of the bunt single he placed down in the fifth inning. Melvin liked his arm.
"I think the throwing was something we didn't expect," the manager said. "He gets in front of it and gets good momentum behind it. He's accurate. So he doesn't look to be overwhelmed by playing against big leaguers."
"That's something the Nationals had me working on this offseason," Burns said. "It's always been a weak area for me, but it's something I'm conscious of. I try to cover some ground and get to the ball faster than most people and try to be as accurate as I possibly can."
Annoyed Gray works way out of jams
PHOENIX -- Sonny Gray was back in game action Saturday for the first time since the postseason, slightly irked that he was forced to work his way out of more than one jam but glad he did.
"It was a battle," Gray said, "but I was able to make some pitches when I needed to."
Oakland's young righty was introducing himself to the Rangers for the first time ever and totaled two innings in his spring debut, allowing two hits with two walks and two strikeouts but no runs.
"I felt I got ahead very well today and then maybe tried to do too much," he said. "I just have to get those two-strike pitches, put guys away and stay in attack mode."
"He's real hard on himself," said manager Bob Melvin, when hearing of Gray's comments. "He's one guy that you don't have to manufacture a way to motivate him. He's a very driven kid. He has the same personality whether he's throwing an inning in a Spring Training game or pitching in the playoffs, and it works very well for him."
Even when playfully asked about facing former Minor League teammate Michael Choice, who said pregame he'd "have a hard time not laughing up there," Gray replied, "Yeah, I didn't look at him."
"We're friends," he continued, "but we're both big competitors."
Choice, sent to the Rangers in the Craig Gentry trade, hit a double in his first at-bat against Gray, who threw him a fastball. It's a pitch he was pleased with, but he found even greater success with his changeup.
He only threw three curveballs.
"And that was with two strikes where I really needed to make a pitch," Gray said. "I threw a lot of changeups, and I was getting a lot of swings on them. They were being really aggressive and just missing the changeup or fouling it off, so that went really well today. Overall, I felt good."
"He got behind some guys and put some guys on base but worked his way out of it," said Melvin. "More than anything, he got his pitches in and didn't give up any runs."
• Lefty Drew Pomeranz, acquired by the A's from the Rockies for Brett Anderson, made his spring debut on Saturday against the Rangers and allowed one hit and struck out two in an inning of work.
"Big arm, no question about it," said Melvin. "There's a lot of upside there."
• The A's continue to be encouraged by reliever Fernando Rodriguez's progress. The right-hander, who underwent Tommy John surgery a year ago, threw 40 pitches to hitters on Saturday and "looked real good," said Melvin.
It's still not clear whether Rodriguez will be ready in time to pitch in games this spring.
• John Jaso, hit by a pitch above his right elbow in Wednesday's Cactus League opener, returned to play on Saturday in the sixth inning, getting an at-bat at designated hitter. He will start at catcher in Sunday's game against the Angels.