MESA, Ariz. — A pleasant early spring development for the A’s is the form right-hander Jesse Hahn is showing.
Facing hitters for the first time in camp, Hahn’s fastball looked in midseason form during his 32-pitch session Saturday against some of Oakland’s top prospects.
“I almost felt too good,” Hahn said through a big smile afterward. “I was up today, letting it fly a little bit. I was just happy all my pitches felt like they were there, and i just feel healthy, awesome.”
The A’s have been conservative with Hahn so far as he’s coming off a forearm strain that sidelined him for the second half of 2015. He’s only been throwing off the mound every three days, with all the other pitchers going every other day. But so far manager Bob Melvin and pitching coach Curt Young have to be happy with what they’re seeing.
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The 6-foot-5 Hahn bulked up in the offseason and is making some mechanical adjustments, trying to get his legs more involved in his delivery to take some pressure off his elbow. He’s also discarding the slider and trying to improve his changeup.
As for using the lower body more, that’s one area Hahn said he still needs to work on.
“I think I have to do more side work and throwing, because once you get out there at game speed, you kinda lose a little bit of it,” he said. “So I think with more repetition I’ll do a better job of it. I think today that’s what I lacked a little bit was a little bit of my legs in there. Once I do that I think the ball’s gonna start coming down.”
PROSPECT WATCH: These early days of spring allow Melvin to evaluate the handful of top minor league prospects in camp.
He raved about the young crop of position players coming through the ranks. One of them is third baseman Matt Chapman, Oakland’s 2014 first-round pick who is likely to begin this season at Double-A Midland. He hit four or five homers during batting practice Saturday — with Melvin on the mound.
“He has a lot of ability, and I can see why Liepp (farm director Keith Lieppman) and our development guys are really high on him,” Melvin said.
The A’s are particularly deep in infield prospects, and that’s noteworthy for an organization that for years was much more successful developing pitchers than position players. Shortstop Franklin Barreto, third baseman Renato Nunez, first baseman Matt Olson and Chapman are among the highly touted minor leaguers in camp.
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Olson also saw time in right field last season at Double-A and will get more time out there this season, Melvin said. That’s worth monitoring with current A’s right fielder Josh Reddick possibly playing his final season with the A’s if he and the team don’t agree on a contract extension. But Olson’s time in the outfield is also a byproduct of the A’s having a strong crop of corner infielders in the system.
Melvin pointed out the up-and-coming talent to his club during Friday’s team meeting that ushered in full-squad workouts.
“I addressed that I like the group we’ve put together this year, and with our younger players, we have a chance to do some good things this year and sustaining it,” Melvin said. “That’s the goal and that’s the picture I want them to have in their heads — not only guys here now but (in) the organization.”
HEALTH UPDATE: Fortunately for the A’s, there’s been little in the way of injuries to update beyond catcher Stephen Vogt’s continued recovery from elbow surgery. He threw at a distance of 90 feet Saturday with no issues. Vogt has yet to take full batting practice — it was hitting that gave his right elbow the most trouble — but is hitting off a tee and taking soft toss in the cage.
ODDS AND ENDS: A bit more on the minor league front: Barreto saw time in center field while playing winter ball in Venezuela, but Melvin said the A’s top-ranked prospect will focus solely on shortstop, at least while in big league camp. Youth is on Barreto’s side — he celebrated his 20th birthday Saturday. … The A’s will hold intrasquad games Monday and Tuesday at their minor league facility.