3/24/2014 2:38 P.M. ET
A's keep starting pitchers away from AL West foes
By Jane Lee / MLB.com
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- A's pitchers are being held out of games against division foes this week, with Dan Straily and Sonny Gray both getting their work in Minor League contests instead.
Straily, as well as relievers Jim Johnson and Luke Gregerson and Sean Doolittle, pitched in a Minor League game at Papago Park while the A's played the Rangers on Monday. And on Wednesday, Gray will start in a Minor League game so he doesn't have to face the Angels for the same reason.
Straily allowed seven runs on 10 hits -- including two homers -- with two walks and two strikeouts on 89 pitches in 5 2/3 innings, but just one run and four hits through the first four frames. Doolittle and Gregerson threw scoreless innings, while Johnson allowed two unearned runs and two hits in his inning of work.
"They're stretched out so much," explained manager Bob Melvin. "You're getting where you want them to get 80-90 pitches, and not only that, but you want to start using your repertoire more so like you would when you're in the regular season.
"With some of the starters early on, they're probably working on some things and aren't pitching certain guys the way they would during the season, where now they have to get after it in the fashion where it's a regular-season game."
Melvin still made the trek to Surprise for his club's meeting with the Rangers, bringing along few lineup regulars. Road games, in particular, allow him to see some of the division's best.
Elvis Andrus, Prince Fielder and Adrian Beltre were all in Texas' starting lineup Monday. The day before, Melvin opted to go on the road for split-squad action, rather than remain at home, to get a peek at a handful of Seattle's regulars, including newcomers Robinson Cano and Logan Morrison.
"You know you're going to get their full lineup," he said. "I'm not looking for any particular thing, just a sense of how they're doing things."
Murphy's first big league moment is a memorable one
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- Minor Leaguer Sean Murphy stepped foot in a big league clubhouse for the first time Monday morning, readying to see his name listed on the A's lineup as an extra pitcher. That's how he learned he was starting the game.
"I just thought maybe I'd get a chance to come out in relief," said Murphy, a 33rd-round Draft pick by the A's in 2010.
Instead, the 25-year-old received the start against a stacked Rangers lineup that included Prince Fielder, Adrian Beltre and Elvis Andrus, while the A's got Dan Straily work in a Minor League game. All Murphy did was throw 4 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing Texas just one hit with one walk and two strikeouts.
"Pretty impressive," said manager Bob Melvin. "You could tell there were a little nerves involved to begin with, and then he got comfortable and started using all his pitches. We certainly know who he is now. A true four-pitch mix, and it was impressive, and it's not like he got somebody's B lineup either."
"Definitely nerve-racking," said Murphy, who spent the bulk of 2013 in Double-A Midland. "That first inning I was so nervous, I couldn't control my fastball, so I had to resort to my changeup. You see a lineup like that, who wouldn't be a little nervous?
"My cutter was definitely working as a strike pitch. I got a lot of swing and misses with it, and my changeup started to come around at the end. Basically, I just went from there, and my fastball command came around later and I started to get in a groove."
Murphy's father, Ray, happened to be visiting, so he, too, made the drive over to Surprise to watch his son face some of the game's biggest names. And when told the game was slated to air on MLB Network at 11 p.m. PT on Monday, Murphy said he'll definitely be watching.
So will many of his friends and family members.
"I just looked at my phone," he said, "and I had about 15 texts.
"Today was a blast. I can't even put it into words. I'm just super pumped right now."
Jaso gets back-to-back starts at catcher
SURPRISE, Ariz. -- John Jaso was back behind the plate for a second straight day Monday, a first for the A's catcher this spring, after he missed the final two and a half months of the 2013 season.
"I felt all right," Jaso said. "It was good to do that at least one time before the season starts. I feel right on schedule."
"He's handled everything great," said manager Bob Melvin. "I think after the first couple of days you just don't even think about it anymore. You're back to your normal routine. He's actually taken a bat to the mask and a foul ball as well. We monitor that pretty closely, but so far so good."
Jaso is set to resume the same role he served last year, catching on days his team faces a right-hander. Derek Norris will start behind the plate against lefties.
At one point there was the possibility Oakland would carry three catchers into the season. But even though Stephen Vogt is having an incredible spring, the A's appear set to only take two, in order to make roster room for Daric Barton. As a result, Brandon Moss will DH most days against righties, while Barton plays first.
That same DH job would've likely gone to Jaso, had the A's went with three catchers, and it's seemingly a good fit for him, considering his defensive limitations. However, they've been a focus for Jaso this spring, particularly throwing.
"It's going pretty good," said Jaso, who tossed out just four of 28 base runners last year. "Footwork and hand position, the release, those are the biggest things that we're working on."
"He's working doubly hard," added Melvin, "and his throwing has been good."
• A's infielder Nick Punto played just two innings in the field Monday before departing the game with left hamstring tightness. The team said it was a precautionary move.
• Outfielder Craig Gentry, who will begin the season on the disabled list after being delayed in spring by a lower back strain, went 3-for-5 with a triple in a Minor League game Monday.