PHOENIX -- Even for a Cactus League affair in early March, Thursday's game between the A's and Mariners got off to an odd start. A's left-hander Tommy Milone, the control artist who owned the seventh-lowest walk ratio among qualified starters last season (1.71 per nine innings) issued a free pass to Mariners leadoff hitter Robert Andino -- on four pitches.
Andino dropped his bat and jogged to first base. Order was restored shortly thereafter as Milone froze Andino with a deceptive move to first and picked him off. Milone would allow a two-out single later in the inning and a pair of singles in the third, but ended that rally by striking out Mariners No. 3 hitter Jason Bay and wrapped up his second outing of the spring with a line of three innings, three hits, no runs and three strikeouts.
"Good breaking ball, command of everything," manager Bob Melvin said. "He's the type of guy that you don't notice, and all of a sudden he's out of the game and there are no runs on the board. That's kind of how he pitches."
Except for the leadoff walk, which made Milone chuckle when asked after the game if even he was a little taken aback.
"Yeah, it's never a good thing," he said. "You've got to go out and forget about it, throw strikes and ... attack the zone. Felt like I wasn't doing that to the first hitter. Just trying to be too fine, trying to work around the plate rather than on the plate."
Overall, Milone said he was pleased with the start. He has now thrown five scoreless innings this spring. More promising, he said, is that his curveball seems to be coming around quickly. Typically it takes him longer to get a feel for that pitch than his fastball and changeup, he said.
If Melvin's description of a typical good Milone start sounds blasÃ© -- or even somewhat boring -- that's OK with Milone. The left-hander went 13-10 as a rookie with the A's last season, posting a 3.74 ERA and tying teammate Jarrod Parker for the most wins ever by an Oakland rookie. Opposing hitters had a .310 average against him on balls they put in play -- the 12th-highest mark among MLB starters -- but Milone helped limit the damage by issuing just 36 walks in 190 innings.
Milone doesn't throw hard, and he describes his style as "throwing strikes and keeping the ball away from the middle of the plate while doing it." He said he doesn't expect to do anything different in his second full season.
"Probably not," he said. "Obviously I want to get better. You can always learn more things, always try to improve. If I can repeat or improve then I feel like that's a successful season."
* Scott Sizemore started at second base for the first time since being hit on the back of the left hand by a pitch last Sunday and said he felt no ill effects in his three at-bats.
"No pain whatsoever," he said.
Sizemore said he didn't require any added padding or protection on the hand. Now the challenge is getting his timing down. Sizemore went 0-for-2 with a walk Thursday.
* Shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima singled in his first two at-bats in the A's 7-3 win over the Mariners on Thursday, going to the opposite field both times.
Nakajima, through interpreter Hiroo Nishi, said that on the first single he was trying to hit to the right side to move leadoff man Coco Crisp over from first base. The ball found the hole left by first baseman Mike Jacobs holding Crisp on the bag. The second was a breaking ball that Nakajima said he was "able to track down and lay off into right field."
"I think that's kind of his game," Melvin said.
* Jed Lowrie hit his first home run of the spring in the fifth inning off Mariners reliever D.J. Mitchell, a right-hander. That's a promising sign for Lowrie, a switch-hitter who over his career has posted better numbers as a right-handed hitter against lefties. Lowrie has a career OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) of .848 as a right-handed hitter, compared to .694 hitting left-handed.
* Turns out the A's have a WBC representative after all. Relief pitcher Arnold Leon was added to the Mexico roster, the A's announced. Leon joined Team Mexico and did not pitch in their 6-5 loss to Italy on Thursday.
-- Matt Kawahara