Lee discusses A's starters, bullpen strength

PHOENIX -- The A's liked what they saw Sunday from their $22 million offseason prize.

Pitching against teammates in the controlled confines of a sun-splashed Phoenix Municipal Stadium, Scott Kazmir impressed a large crowd of A's personnel in a three-inning, 46-pitch simulated game.

General manager Billy Beane, who made Kazmir his highest-paid pitcher ever, was among the onlookers, joined by his 6-year-old twins about 10 rows behind home plate. Pitching coach Curt Young had a closer look at his new pupil, seated just a few feet behind catcher Derek Norris.

"Sitting behind him, I thought his fastball command was excellent," Young said. "Good life on it, too."

At this point last year, the left-handed Kazmir was throwing only his fastball. But on Sunday, he showcased his changeup, curveball and slider, too.

"To use all my pitches and work on location, inside and out to right-handed and left-handed batters. felt good," said Kazmir, who went 10-9 with a 4.04 ERA in 29 starts for Cleveland last year. "I feel like I'm a little more ahead of schedule."

"From what I saw in the past, it was mostly fastball-slider," said manager Bob Melvin, "but his changeup is as good as any pitch he has, and it looks to me right now like he's throwing a curveball, too. He looked really good."

Making his first appearance against A's hitters, rather than face his former Angels team in Tempe, Ariz., on Sunday, was important to Kazmir, now scheduled to make his Cactus League debut against the D-backs at home on Friday.

"I kind of like that for the first time out, for the fact you can get up and down and use all your pitches," he said. "It gets to a point, you're a competitor, and if something doesn't go right, you bag that and try to get people out. This first time around, I was able to throw all my pitches, get all 15 pitches in each inning."

O'Flaherty continues to progress, nears 'pen session

Athletics add left-hander O'Flaherty to bullpen

PHOENIX -- Every baby step is a big one for Eric O'Flaherty these days, and the lefty reliever is appreciating each one.

Nearly 10 months removed from Tommy John surgery, and two months from signing a two-year, $7 million deal with the A's, O'Flaherty has been continually encouraged by his steady progress. He threw from flat ground for the first time Friday, meaning a bullpen session is in his near future.

Exactly when, O'Flaherty isn't sure. He stopped keeping track of his own schedule months ago. That's why he doesn't like answering questions about his potential return date.

The A's are hoping to add him to an already stacked bullpen around midseason.

"We're not putting a timetable on anything, just so there's not a tendency to rush too much," he said. "I think we're just going day by day, and that's the best way to do it, because you start setting a date for yourself and if you have a setback it's way more frustrating. We're just trying to do it right. It's just less pressure that way."

The 29-year-old was 13-7 with a 1.99 ERA over 295 appearances in five stellar seasons with Atlanta after opening his career with three seasons in Seattle. He had never been sidelined from the game so long until his surgery. Even his battle with mononucleosis in 2010 lasted just one month.

So he's learning the virtues of patience.

"It's tough, but now it's getting easier, because every day you make progress and have those milestones to hit, things that are within reach," O'Flaherty said. "And each time you reach one of those, you get to monitor your progress a lot more. Those first four months are torture. You're just doing shoulder exercises and your elbow hurts. But once you start throwing again, everything goes by so much faster it seems, and I've been feeling great."

Worth noting

Yoenis Cespedes, limited to designated-hitter duties for the first week of games as he eases into spring action, is scheduled to make his spring debut in left field on Tuesday. He went 1-for-3 with a two-run double against the Angels on Monday.

John Jaso, who was hit by a pitch above the right elbow on Wednesday, is expected to return to catching duties on Tuesday.