GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Coming out of the gate sharp is still a challenge for A’s starter Jesse Hahn.
If that’s his biggest obstacle this spring, consider it a good thing.
Coming off a worrisome arm injury last season, Hahn is popping the catcher’s mitt with a mid-90’s fastball that shows he’s feeling in top form physically.
His only trouble Friday against Cleveland came with his first two batters, when Carlos Santana singled and Jose Ramirez followed with an RBI double as part of the Indians’ two-run first inning. After that, Hahn locked in over his four-inning outing, allowing just two more hits and no runs while striking out five.
Hahn’s fastball touched 96 miles per hour Friday, as it has earlier in camp.
“The sky’s the limit for him,” A’s catcher Josh Phegley said. “He’s got the talent to do it, the stuff to do it. With that aggressiveness, the velocity, the breaking ball — he’s got all the pieces there.”
[STIGLICH: Dull quietly impresses once again in A's bullpen]
Now Hahn, with three Cactus League starts under his belt, wants to get off to a better start to the game. After his first start, which was the first game he’d pitched since July due to a strained forearm, he said he was too hyped up. But after the past two starts, he’s said he hasn’t had enough edge coming out of his warm-ups.
“I think I need to do a better job in the bullpen increasing the intensity a little bit,” he said.
With three exhibition starts remaining, manager Bob Melvin said it’s time to start finding the right pregame formula.
“Pretty soon he’s going to have to get it sooner. He understands that,” Melvin said. “ … Coming off the injury, you just want to make sure everything is OK, but then at some point in time when we’re getting down to end of spring, you gotta treat it like a regular game and be on it from the beginning. But from the second inning on, his stuff looked a lot better to me.”
Hahn is happy with his fastball velocity but says he needs to command that pitch better. he’s very pleased with his curve ball command. He’s trying to sharpen his changeup, which remains a work in progress.
The 6-foot-5 right-hander entered camp hoping to incorporate his lower body into his delivery more, hoping to save stress on his elbow. That adjustment is coming along well, and Hahn credits the use of his legs for his live fastball.
“I just feel more drive off the rubber, more lower half-involved,” he said. “And the ball seems to be coming out of my hand better with less effort.”
CAMP BATTLE: The A’s fell 10-8 to the Indians, and for the second day in a row Oakland’s relief corps gave up an eight-run inning.
R.J. Alvarez, who appeared to be a contender for a bullpen spot when the spring began, is still struggling to harness his command. He relieved Hahn to start the fifth and gave up two hits and two walks in just one-third of an inning before being taken out.
“He needs to be able to (have command),” Melvin said. “They get good swings off his fastball when he’s behind in the count because they know it’s coming, especially lefties.”
In four appearances, Alvarez has allowed six earned runs and four walks in 3 2/3 innings.
Seth Frankoff, who came over from minor league camp, allowed Joey Butler’s grand slam as part of Cleveland’s eight-run rally.
PROSPECT WATCH: The A’s closed the gap in the ninth thanks in part to Franklin Barreto’s three-run homer off Felipe Paulino. It was the third homer of the spring for the A’s top prospect, and he showed impressive opposite-field power in driving a 2-2 pitch to right-center.
“He can learn something from that,” Melvin said. “He’s been a little eager trying to pull, where if you can go deep in the count like that, see a lot of pitches and still have that kind of power to the opposite field, you shouldn’t worry about getting deep in counts.”
ODDS AND ENDS: Mark Canha had a two-run double in the first for the A’s. Andrew Lambo singled twice and is hitting .407… Eric Surkamp pitched the final three innings and gave up just one hit and one walk with four strikeouts. … With Rich Hill throwing in a minor league game Sunday, Sean Manaea will make the start against the Chicago White Sox. The A’s don’t want Hill facing the Sox since he’ll be facing them in his first regular-season start.