MESA, Ariz. -– The A’s set their pitching schedule for the start of Cactus League play, with non-roster lefty Eric Surkamp starting Thursday’s opener against the Angels in Tempe.
Sean Manaea, Oakland’s top pitching prospect, will start Friday’s split-squad game at home against Colorado, with Felix Doubront going against the Diamondbacks at Salt River Fields.
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Lefty Rich Hill will make his A’s debut Saturday at home against Milwaukee.
Similar to last spring, ace Sonny Gray will be held out of exhibitions for the first week or so. He’ll be facing hitters for the first time Monday afternoon.
Also similar to last year, A’s manager Bob Melvin said Gray might throw in the occasional minor league game in place of a Cactus League start.
“You might not see as much of him as you do other starters this spring,” Melvin said.
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Surkamp, 28, is with his fourth organization in the past four years. He made seven starts across two seasons with the Giants (2011, 2013) and went 2-3 with a 7.36 ERA. Surkamp made 35 relief appearances for the White Sox in 2014, going 2-0 with a 4.81 ERA. He spent most of last season in the minors but made one appearance in relief for the Dodgers.
Surkamp signed a minor-league deal with the A’s in December, and though he appears to be on the outside looking in as far as making the 25-man roster, drawing a start in the exhibition opener is a nice opportunity. The A’s were originally targeting Aaron Brooks against the Angels, but Brooks was traded Thursday to the Cubs for utility man Chris Coghlan.
“We want to take a look at him,” Melvin said of Surkamp. “It looks like there’s some deception. He’s tall, long arm swing. The ball looks like it has some subtle movement to it. Looking at his numbers from the past, it looks like he commands the baseball pretty well.”
Henderson Alvarez, expected to be out until May as he recovers from shoulder surgery, threw off the mound for the first time Monday morning, though the catcher wasn’t set up as far back behind home plate as he normally would be. All appeared to go well for Alvarez, who went from the bullpen mound to join his teammates for pitchers’ fielding practice.
Surkamp and Manaea are also starting the A’s first intrasquad game Monday that’s scheduled to begin at 11:40 a.m. at the minor league facility.