SURPRISE, Ariz. — A bout of food poisoning zapped Sean Doolittle of his strength in recent days.
Fortunately for the A’s closer, it was a light work day Saturday afternoon.
In his first Cactus League appearance in nearly two weeks, Doolittle needed just six pitches to register a 1-2-3 inning and provide a highlight in Oakland’s 5-2 loss to the Kansas City Royals.
The lefty hadn’t appeared in an exhibition since March 13 because of a mild triceps strain. His return was brief and effortless. He jammed his fastball inside to get a groundout from Cody Decker and a pop-up from Tony Cruz, then coaxed a comebacker from Travis Snider on a slider.
“I was very happy with my stuff, the location of it,” Doolittle said. “…. No changeups, but that has been further along than the slider, so it was good to use the slider in a game against a lefty and get a good result from it too.”
Doolittle said he got food poisoning from some Mexican food he ate Wednesday night and could only get through a light work day Thursday. He dropped a little weight and said he still felt a bit weak Saturday.
Both he and manager Bob Melvin feel that he’ll be ready for the April 4 season opener despite his layoff from the triceps issue. Doolittle appeared in a minor league game Wednesday as a prep for Saturday.
“Between the last outing I had in the minor leagues and today, the (pitch) location, I’ve repeated my delivery … I’m pleased with that and pleased with how I’ve felt afterwards bouncing back. So as far as I’m concerned, I feel like I’m right on schedule.”
Doolittle has made just four exhibition appearances, totaling four innings. He didn’t know if he’d get a chance to pitch on back-to-back days before the opener, and Melvin didn’t seem to think it was a requirement when he discussed the topic Saturday morning.
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NOTEWORTHY: It was a very shaky first inning for A’s starter Chris Bassitt, who issued two bases-loaded walks as part of a four-run rally for the Royals. From that point on Bassitt steadied himself, allowing just one more run on three hits over his final four innings. He finished with four walks total and needed 100 pitches to get through his five innings.
Melvin and catcher Stephen Vogt both emphasized the positive, that Bassitt righted the ship after his first-inning woes. The right-hander wasn’t letting himself off the hook so easy.
“The first inning was just a beat-myself-kind-of-thing,” Bassitt said. “My pitch selection was just not good, plain and simple. I’ve got guys beat and throw the wrong pitch. … The rest of the year, I can’t let that happen again. I had guys 0-2, 1-2, and give up cheap hits. You can’t let it happen.”
It’s never wise to put too much stock in spring training numbers — good or bad ones. But it’s tough to gloss over the fact that A’s starters have posted a 7.84 ERA this spring that ranks 27th out of 30 Major League teams.
HEALTH UPDATE: Melvin said right-hander Henderson Alvarez, building back up as he returns from shoulder surgery, came out of a 40-pitch bullpen session very good. It was Alvarez’s first time incorporating all of his pitches off the mound.
“The last one he let go with a little bit of flair,” Melvin said. “I think today was a day he’d been looking forward to. And he’s got some flair.”
ODDS AND ENDS: The A’s didn’t exactly put on a baserunning clinic in the third, when Eric Sogard and Billy Burns managed to both get tagged out on the same play. Sogard was on first when Burns hit a tapper to third. Sogard, assuming Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas was throwing to first, made an aggressive turn around second with an eye toward going to third. But when Moustakas held the ball, Sogard was hung out to dry in a rundown. Compounding matters, Burns was thrown out trying to advance to second. “I like the aggressiveness, but (Sogard) has just got to let it leave his hand,” Melvin said. “He lets it leave his hand, we got something going there. Then Billy has to try to go from the very beginning, once he sees him go (to third).” … Ryan Dull threw a scoreless inning with two strikeouts to continue a fantastic spring. He has yet to allow a run through seven appearances, and he hasn’t even given up a hit over the last six. Dull has 10 strikeouts and just one walk in 8 1/3 innings, as he’s making a very strong push for a spot in the seven-man bullpen.