3/22/2014 8:30 P.M. ET
Kazmir closes Cactus League run with confidence
By Jane Lee / MLB.com
PHOENIX -- Any lingering concern over Scott Kazmir disappeared Saturday, when the A's lefty returned to game action following a 10-day layoff and overcame a shaky start to put together an encouraging performance.
Scratched from his last start because of minor triceps tightness, Kazmir pitched 4 1/3 innings in his third and final Arizona appearance, saying afterward he "felt great" physically.
Oakland's $22 million southpaw allowed four of his first five batters to reach base but found a nice groove thereafter, fanning four of his next five and retiring 12 of his final 14 opponents. Overall, he allowed three runs on four hits with three walks and five strikeouts.
"I was a little erratic at the beginning," said Kazmir, who will depart Arizona with a 2.38 ERA. "I actually felt really good and felt I was just overthrowing a little. A lot of my pitches were out over the plate, and they were hacking. They were swinging from pitch one, so I had to make some adjustments. … To be able to on the fly slow some stuff down, I was pleased with that."
Kazmir threw 72 pitches, and the plan is to add 15 more to his total in his next start, an exhibition game against the Giants at AT&T Park on Thursday.
It will mark his final preseason outing before his expected season debut five days later against the Indians. It's with Cleveland that he resurrected his career last year, having been out of the big leagues for most of the previous two seasons because of mechanical issues.
How are his mechanics now?
"Night and day," he said. "I didn't even know my mechanics probably three years ago. I just did it. I don't know how I did it, but I did. Now, having those couple of years off to be able to really focus in on repeating my delivery and ironing some things out, I learned a lot."
Cespedes works on retooled swing in Minors game
PHOENIX -- Yoenis Cespedes wasn't in the A's lineup Saturday, but that didn't stop the struggling left fielder from getting in a few in-game at-bats.
Cespedes took his new-look swing over to the A's Minor League game, doubling and walking in four at-bats in a low-pressure environment.
"Even though in a Spring Training game he shouldn't feel that type of pressure," said manager Bob Melvin, "doing that allows you to really work on things and process things a bit more."
Coming off a down 2013 season in which he collected 26 homers but hit just .240, Cespedes ranks near the bottom in several offensive categories among all players this spring, with his .130 average and .337 OPS. He's sporting a shorter swing he hopes will eventually lead to more contact, but finding the right timing with it has been troublesome -- and plenty frustrating for the Cuban.
He has just two hits in his last 30 at-bats, with five strikeouts in his last seven.
"For him, it's just about getting a couple hits, and then he'll be off to the races," Melvin said. "It's just that when you're continually having some bad at-bats and just can't find your way, sometimes it makes some sense to go over there and just get a few more at-bats. He likes a lot of at-bats."
Asked if Cespedes could potentially go back to his original swing, Melvin said, "Maybe it's a little bit of a hybrid."
"We obviously don't want to take his power away from him," Melvin explained, "and we want him to be comfortable in what he's doing, so maybe find a happy medium."
• Right-hander Ryan Cook pitched in a Minor League game Saturday and threw 16 of his 17 pitches for strikes.
It was the first non-simulated game action of the spring for the reliever, whose February shoulder setback could prevent him from being ready in time for Opening Day.
• Rehabbing outfielder Craig Gentry (lower back strain) played in the same game as Cook, getting positive results.
"He had a couple hits and looked really good," said manager Bob Melvin. "I guess he did everything you possibly could to test your back over there. He was in a rundown, running down the line, played a few innings, so everything went well with him."
Like Cook, Gentry is on the fence for Opening Day.
• Lefty bullpen candidate Joe Savery continues to work out of jams. The reliever loaded the bases on two hits and a walk in the sixth inning Saturday but got out of it unscathed.
He's put 15 men on base in 7 2/3 innings this spring (nine hits, six walks) but has yet to give up an earned run.
"Again, he ends up getting out of stuff," Melvin said. "If he throws the ball over the plate a little bit more and can cut down on his pitch count some, he'd cut down on those longer innings. But he's got good stuff. There's no doubt about that, and we've seen a better breaking ball out of him each and every time. So he definitely has the stuff to get lefties out and the fastball to get righties out."
Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.