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A's getting used to limits on mound visits

MLB.com @JaneMLB

MESA, Ariz. -- The A's are using Spring Training to familiarize themselves with one of the game's latest initiatives.

Major League Baseball last month announced new pace-of-play rules that limit each team to six mound visits per game, plus one for each extra inning. Managers making trips on account of a pitching change will not be docked.

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MESA, Ariz. -- The A's are using Spring Training to familiarize themselves with one of the game's latest initiatives.

Major League Baseball last month announced new pace-of-play rules that limit each team to six mound visits per game, plus one for each extra inning. Managers making trips on account of a pitching change will not be docked.

View Full Game Coverage

A's manager Bob Melvin, though initially skeptical of such limitations, seems to think it's a reasonable number after going through the motions of several games.

"We're just kind of feeling it out now," Melvin said. "Early on, first couple of games, you're thinking, 'OK, now we gotta be careful with these mound visits.' Six is quite a bit, and that's not including the pitching changes, so we'll look at it a little bit differently and make some mound visits early on and see how it affects us early on in the game instead of being conservative with them."

:: Spring Training coverage presented by Camping World ::

It's not all groovy, though. A's catchers are still acclimating, as are the pitchers, who are having to find new ways to establish when a new set of signs are in play.

"We're discussing ways to communicate with the coaching staff in times where we feel like we personally need to go out there," catcher Bruce Maxwell said. "We're talking about trying to develop a signal that basically says, 'Hey, OK, you can go out there.' I guess it's just being more aware of it. It doesn't change a whole lot, but at the same time, it really makes us think of when we can go out there, and it puts a little more self-check on the pitchers, because we just can't come out there whenever we want."

Right-hander Andrew Triggs had no choice but to call on catcher Josh Phegley during Thursday's game against the Rangers, a lesson learned the hard way.

"We didn't discuss what we were going to do, so we had the leadoff double and a man on second, and I had to burn one of our mound visits just because he and I had to get on the same page," Triggs said. "I assumed we were going to go with what we went with last time, but you never want to assume in a situation like that.

"Moving forward, I'm going to make it a positive for myself and develop my own little sign signal. It's something we're all going to have to adapt to, and for sure me. I was probably a perfect example of why you need to be more prepared with the signs and things of that nature."

The pitcher-catcher relationship, already crucial, will be magnified even more now. The new rules require diligent preparation among both parties, and everyone in uniform will be encouraged to practice constant communication -- which can help combat sign stealing, often the topic of many mound visits.

"More dialogue on the bench," Melvin said. "You want that to begin with."

Injury updates

Lefty Sean Manaea, who was scratched from his first start because of back tightness, is on track to make his Cactus League debut in a home matchup with the Rangers on Tuesday.

Third baseman Matt Chapman is also on the mend after receiving a cortisone shot in his sore right hand last week. Chapman resumed swinging on Thursday, taking it easy with soft toss and tee work. He'll pick it up again Saturday, following the club's off-day Friday, but there's still no timeline for him to get in games.

Camp battles

Right-hander Jharel Cotton, who struck out five of his seven batters in his spring debut, took a step backward Thursday, allowing four runs on five hits and two walks with one strikeout across two-plus innings in an erratic display against the Rangers.

"It's the consistency we've been talking about," Melvin said. "You want him to follow up a good outing with another one, take the confidence that he had from the time before, and he just couldn't do it today, so just working on throwing the ball over the plate, getting ahead, and when he does that, he's more confident and gets more results."

Triggs, meanwhile, was tagged for two runs (one earned) and two hits but managed to get through three innings without allowing a walk.

"My goal today was first and foremost, I wanted to get through three innings, and I didn't want to walk anybody, and then from there I was reasonably happy with how I was able to move the ball around," Triggs said.

Both right-handers are in competition for three open rotation spots. It's early, but no one has separated from the pack -- contributing to an overall lackluster performance on the mound. Through seven games, A's pitchers have compiled a 7.65 ERA, worst among all teams.

"At some point in time we have to tighten it up," Melvin said.

Up next

The A's will enjoy their first off-day of the spring schedule Friday, resuming play on Saturday against the Padres at Hohokam Stadium. Right-hander Kendall Graveman, favored to land his second consecutive Opening Day assignment, will be on the mound in the 12:05 p.m. PT contest. Listen to the game with Gameday Audio.

Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010. Follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB.

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