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A's lefty O'Flaherty takes step toward return

OAKLAND -- Athletics left-hander Eric O'Flaherty was encouraged after throwing to hitters Saturday for the first time in nearly a year.

O'Flaherty, who signed with the A's in January and had Tommy John surgery on May 21, 2013, threw 20 pitches to Daric Barton ands Jake Elmore after tossing 15 pitches in the bullpen.

"It felt great," O'Flaherty said before the A's played the Nationals on Saturday night. "This is a big step forward. I'm very encouraged."

A's manager Bob Melvin said the team is looking at a mid-June return for the reliever. 

"Originally, we were looking at the All-Star break," Melvin said. "There is a lot to be excited about."

O'Flaherty would add yet another arm to an already-talented bullpen. In 2011 with Atlanta, he became the first relief pitcher to record an ERA under 1.00 with at least 70 appearances in a season.

O'Flaherty, who has been on a two-day-per-week throwing schedule, threw all fastballs Saturday, and will likely mix in some of his other pitches in another session before being sent on a rehab assignment.

"The ball came out of his hand real nice," Melvin said. "I'm sure he was excited about it."

Rick Eymer is a contributor to
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