SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Ryan Madson has a good excuse for his recent absence.
The A's right-hander, scratched from his first scheduled spring outing last week with what was deemed general arm soreness, was lending the rest to a bum elbow feeling the aftereffects of the split-finger fastball. Madson played with the pitch in the offseason wanting to give his repertoire a different look but has since postponed the experiment.
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He made his Cactus League debut in the A's 21-13 win over the D-backs on Tuesday, allowing two runs on three hits.
"Either I overdid it, threw too many, or just a nasty pitch on my elbow," Madson said. "I never threw it before, wanted to try it, and it was a really good pitch, but the next day after facing hitters, that's what gave me the discomfort. I've had it before learning the cutter, so I know it takes time to work through it, but I don't have the time to go through that right now."
Madson insisted the elbow pain was "nothing scary," which is why he would consider toying with the pitch again during the regular season, saying, "I think I'm going to get in shape first and then maybe go back to it, throw it seldomly as an out pitch later, but not right now."
Never had Madson, 36 years old and 11 years into his big league career, tried it out before because he could always rely on a consistent changeup. That much remains the same, but he thought the splitter could perhaps keep hitters from sitting on his changeup. Madson was aiming to throw the splitter up to five mph harder than the changeup.
"I'm wanting to always bring new stuff because I think that's how you stay," Madson said. "I talked to a bunch of guys, and they'd ask me how it is. I'd say, it hurts. Everyone was just like, 'Bang it. Leave it alone. You've got a good changeup.'"
Madson posted a 3.62 ERA in 63 games for the A's last year, compiling 30 saves in the first year of a three-year, $22 million deal. He's seemingly the front-runner to close again, but manager Bob Melvin also has options in Santiago Casilla and Sean Doolittle and will hold off on an official announcement until camp closes.
"Most of our bullpen guys don't care when they throw," Madson said. "Five, 10 years ago, people wanted to know. I've never been that way. I enjoy just going in big situations and getting out of it, and I also enjoy closing. It's less wear and tear. You don't get up as much. There are definitely benefits of closing that I like."