PHOENIX -- It takes time to finely tune a starting pitcher's arsenal. As a result, the first start of the spring isn't the best time to jump to conclusions about one's repertoire. That principle applies to Dan Straily, who made his spring debut on Wednesday in the A's 11-6 win over the Padres.
The A's are holding back some of their young pitchers this spring to limit the wear and tear on their arms. Straily, 24, threw 181 2/3 innings last season and is one of the prized A's pitchers that have been held back in camp.
"I had to knock the rust off that's for sure, I just had to wait, kind of wait your turn," Straily said. "It's been a long two weeks that we've been here, but it felt really good to get out there and throw some pitches."
Straily allowed two runs on two hits with one walk and one hit batsman. He threw 34 pitches -- 23 strikes -- and lasted one and one-third innings. It may not look fantastic in a box score, but the stats don't really count in the long run anyways. What's most important is putting in quality work.
"I felt good," Straily said. "I was really happy with some fastball locations and threw a couple of good change-ups."
The most important thing for Straily to work on this spring is his fastball command. He said he was working on throwing fastballs to the glove side of catcher John Jaso. While he felt he did so successfully, that was a bit of an issue statistically speaking because the Padres had six lefties in the lineup.
"That didn't really change what we were doing," Straily said. "That's what I am working on, so, if they get to a few of them, they get to a few of them."
And that is the beauty of spring training. Straily has the luxury of a long big league camp to fine-tune his game. Last season, he wasn't even on the A's radar. Wednesday's start was actually the first time he's ever pitched in a Cactus League game. That fact is especially strange considering he has started seven Major League games. In those seven contests he had a 3.89 ERA in 39 1/3 innings. He struck out 32 batters and walked 16, but gave up 11 home runs. The A's went 5-2 in his starts.
Later in the spring he will work on the rest of his pitches a bit more.
"I let my breaking balls get ready when I am actually pitching in games," Straily said. "I've seen all these stories of guys getting hurt with breaking balls, sliders, and curveballs. I don't want to be one of those guys, so I just wait until I need to throw it to actually throw it."
Straily proved last season that he has the ability to harness each of his four pitches. He had a gaudy 190 strikeouts in 152 minor league innings last season. He has a fastball, change-up, curveball, and a slider, but said he wasn't trying to break off the "nasty slider" in this game. His first inning against the Padres wasn't exactly pretty. His defense didn't do him any favors, though.
After allowing a leadoff walk, Straily induced a potential double play ball to third, but Chris Denorfia beat out Jemile Weeks' throw to first. Mark Kotsay followed with a double to center field that Shane Peterson misplayed, allowing Denorfia to score. Two batters later, John Jaso lost a two out foul popup hit by Travis Buck, who later reached base with an RBI single.
Straily came back out to start the second inning and struck out John Baker before being removed from the game.
"I think he threw the ball pretty well," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "He's come out here in great shape and really from the first day of bullpens has looked like a guy that has prepared as well as anybody coming into camp."
The Oregon native is expected to crack the A's opening day roster. He might not be able to stick around too long initially, though, as Bartolo Colon could take his spot when he finishes the remaining five games of his 50-game suspension. No matter how it shakes out, Straily will likely be a big part of the A's plans in 2013.
"I'm getting ready for a long season; it's not up to me where I go," Straily said. "I'm just getting ready to pitch, that's all I'm here to do."