MESA, Ariz. – A’s manager Bob Melvin typically waits for reporters to ask him about individual standouts following a game.
On Saturday, he didn’t need to be prodded before noting the fine all-around game of catcher Josh Phegley against the Cincinnati Reds.
“Not only was he throwing guys out, he was blocking balls in the dirt, he makes a great play on (a tapper in front of the plate), he hits a homer,” Melvin said after an 8-1 Oakland victory. “He’ll sleep well tonight. It was an active day for him.”
Phegley has enjoyed an impressive overall spring, surely making A’s officials feel secure about the idea of platooning him with Stephen Vogt behind the plate.
Phegley made an on-the-money throw to second on a pitch-out in the fifth to nail Billy Hamilton, perhaps the fastest player in the majors. He singled and scored in the fourth, then connected for a two-run homer off Aroldis Chapman in the sixth. The blast landed on the lawn at Hohokam Stadium, well over the wall in left-center.
CAMP BATTLE: Jesse Hahn kept pace in the battle for the starting rotation, as the right-hander blanked the Reds over five innings. It’s tough to handicap the competition for the three open spots on the starting staff because one impressive outing often has been followed up by another from someone else. As a pitching staff, the A’s entered the day ranked third in the Cactus League in ERA at 3.81. Their 159 strikeouts led the league.
Hahn has posted a 3.65 ERA over four appearances (three starts), allowing five runs and 15 hits in 12 1/3 innings. He’s struck out eight and walked four.
“We just have a lot of depth this year,” Hahn said. “We’re gonna need it. It’s a long season. All of us are going to get a chance to (contribute), I’m sure.”
DROPPING LUMBER: Some of the A’s veteran hitters as a group are showing signs of rounding into form. Ben Zobrist, seeing the majority of his time in the No. 3 spot, is hitting .345. Billy Butler is batting just .207 but is making some hard contact and Brett Lawrie hit his first homer, a three-run shot, in the first inning Saturday.
“The farther along we get, the more at-bats we get and the more pitches to see, the more comfortable we’ll be,” Melvin said.
[RELATED: Lawrie puts talents on display against Reds]
FLASHING LEATHER: The A’s got strong defensive games from Phegley and Lawrie. One player who struggled on a sun-drenched afternoon was Hamilton, the Reds’ center fielder. He fought the sun and barely hung on to Marcus Semien’s fly ball in the fourth. Two batters later, Hamilton lost track of Eric Sogard’s fly and let it drop next to him for what went in the books as an RBI double.
ODDS AND ENDS: Evan Scribner, fighting for one of the last spots in what’s likely to be a seven-man bullpen, threw two innings and gave up one run on four hits and two walks. He struck out three. … Leadoff man Coco Crisp went 0-for-3 and is hitting .167 in six games.