MESA, Ariz. — Jharel Cotton took the mound to begin Tuesday’s game and promptly struck out the side in order.
It would establish a theme for the day, as first-round draft pick A.J. Puk also punched out the side in his first outing and Oakland pitchers rang up 14 strikeouts total in a 5-4 victory over the Cleveland Indians at Hohokam Stadium.
For Cotton, more important than putting up gaudy spring numbers is simply cementing his place in the A’s starting rotation. His first outing was a step in the right direction, though the Indians got to him for a run in his second and final inning when his command deserted him a bit.
“Cotton, I thought was really good,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “Strikes the first four guys out. His command was off a little bit later with runners on base, but his stuff was really good.”
That fourth strikeout, to lead off the second, came with an asterisk. A third-strike wild pitch allowed Abraham Almonte to get all the way to second. Before long, Cotton had the bases loaded and no outs thanks to a walk and hit batter, but he got a big lift when first baseman Yonder Alonso made a diving stop to begin a 3-6-1 double play. The Indians would score only one run off him.
“I got in some trouble but I got out of it,” Cotton said. “I limited the damage so I was happy about that.”
PROSPECT WATCH: Puk said he felt first-game jitters while warming up, but he sure didn’t show it once he took the mound in the sixth. Showing command of his full repertoire, Puk struck out Erik Kratz, Lonnie Chisenhall and Almonte in order for a memorable first outing in big league camp.
“I was a little anxious in the bullpen to get going,” the 6-foot-7 lefty said. “Then I finally got my name called and got ready and just tried to throw strikes and see what happens.”
Puk was pleased to get a swing-and-miss with his curve, a pitch he’s getting reacquainted with for the first time since high school. But Melvin was most encouraged by his changeup. “It’s something we asked him to work on and he brings it right into a game,” Melvin said. “To do that and use a pitch he may not be as familiar with in his first time on the mound, it shows you he’s pretty coachable too.”
LIGHTER SIDE: Third baseman Trevor Plouffe’s first hit with the A’s ended up being a homer off vaunted Indians closer Andrew Miller. The towering blast easily cleared the left field wall and wound up ricocheting off a startled fan who was sprawled out on the grass, apparently trying to squeeze in a nap. The fan was OK and kept waving to everybody afterward just to prove he was awake.
Plouffe expressed relief that the fan was OK, adding with a smile: “As long as it’s not a kid. A grown man should be watching the game.”
FAMILIAR FACE: A’s center fielder Rajai Davis went 1-for-3 in his first game playing against the team he helped lead to the World Series last year. As he stepped to the plate for his first at-bat, he gestured toward the visitor’s dugout in respect.
“Just to be able to see them again, it’s like a family reunion,” Davis said.
ODDS AND ENDS: Marcus Semien connected for his first homer of the spring, showing opposite-field power with a two-run blast to right off Mike Clevinger in the first. … Minor league first baseman Rangel Ravelo broke a 4-4 tie in the eighth with the A’s third homer of the day, as Oakland evened its Cactus League record at 2-2. … Fifth-starter candidate Andrew Triggs went two innings and allowed an unearned run on two hits. He struck out three in a row to end the top of the fourth. … Matt Olson drew the start in right field and tripled to deep to center in the second, scoring on Josh Phegley’s sacrifice fly.