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Axford gets work in before Classic departure

MLB.com @JaneMLB

MESA, Ariz. -- A's reliever John Axford took the mound for Thursday's 5-1 win over the Rangers for what will be his only spring appearance ahead of his Sunday travels to Miami with Team Canada.

The right-hander admittedly felt "rusty" and walked two batters against the Rangers, but he didn't allow a run in his only inning.

MESA, Ariz. -- A's reliever John Axford took the mound for Thursday's 5-1 win over the Rangers for what will be his only spring appearance ahead of his Sunday travels to Miami with Team Canada.

The right-hander admittedly felt "rusty" and walked two batters against the Rangers, but he didn't allow a run in his only inning.

Axford is expected to throw a bullpen session on Saturday before embarking on his second World Baseball Classic experience, meaning he won't appear in a game for the green and gold again until mid-March.

:: 2017 World Baseball Classic ::

Several pitchers participating in the tournament have already appeared in multiple exhibition games, but Axford preferred not to alter his normal spring schedule, electing to enter play around the same time he normally would.

"I didn't want to prepare for the WBC," Axford said. "My arm is generally there. I felt strong last year and the Spring Training before that, so I didn't want to ramp up anything earlier than that. I wanted to make sure I am preparing for the season, but obviously the stuff is still going to be there early on."

Axford was on the Canadian team involved in a headline-grabbing brawl with Team Mexico in 2013, after multiple fights -- on the field and in the stands -- erupted when Canada's Rene Tosoni was hit in the back by a pitch from Arnold Leon, a member of the A's organization at the time.

Axford was warming up in the bullpen at Salt River Fields when the skirmish began and remembers being the last player to reach the field.

"I got there and fists were already flying everywhere," Axford said. "People were getting punched in the face. I didn't know what to do. I was on the outskirts. If you watch a video, you see me kind of in the background, shuffling through the melee of people. It's crazy that happened. I ended up getting in there, grabbing players and pulling people off each other, throwing people around. The adrenaline was way up. And I had to get back to the bullpen and tried to calm myself down again to pitch in the ninth inning."

Video: CAN@MEX: Benches clear as tempers flare in the ninth

The A's have one other Classic participant on their 40-man roster: Dominican right-hander Santiago Casilla, who has yet to report to camp.

Fifth-starter battle continues

A's rotation candidates Jesse Hahn and Raul Alcantara both impressed against the Rangers on Thursday -- Hahn working around three hits to cobble together three scoreless innings, and Alcantara allowing one run on one hit and one walk in three innings.

Hahn, who struck out the side in the first after yielding a leadoff hit, utilized all of his pitches effectively.

"I think at times he's relied a lot just on his fastball, and today he was able to get back into the count with some offspeed, be able to get some weak contact with offspeed," catcher Stephen Vogt said. "He's progressing toward forcing a tough decision. We have a long way to go, but he looks good."

Added Hahn: "I want to prove myself early. You only get so many opportunities, so when I do get them, I want to impress."

Worth Noting

• Hard-throwing prospect Frankie Montas tossed two scoreless innings in his first A's appearance.

• Right-hander Ryan Madson was originally on the list to pitch on Thursday, but his spring debut has been pushed back several days because of general arm soreness, manager Bob Melvin said.

• Outfielder Jake Smolinski (right shoulder) has been hitting in the cage and could be cleared to DH in his first exhibition game soon.

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

Oakland Athletics, John Axford