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Battling for spot, Cotton strong vs. Mariners

Right-hander fans five over four productive innings, fine after rolling ankle
Special to MLB.com

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Even after Jharel Cotton held a spot in the A's rotation all of last season, nothing is guaranteed for the right-hander this spring.

Cotton knows as much, even if manager Bob Melvin intimated a preference on Wednesday that Cotton earn one of the three seemingly open rotation spots.

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PEORIA, Ariz. -- Even after Jharel Cotton held a spot in the A's rotation all of last season, nothing is guaranteed for the right-hander this spring.

Cotton knows as much, even if manager Bob Melvin intimated a preference on Wednesday that Cotton earn one of the three seemingly open rotation spots.

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"We'd like him to be [part of the rotation]," Melvin said. "He's had some success for us. ... We'd love for him to be in it. Now is a good time to start pitching well."

Whether Cotton actually heard his manager's words, he heeded them.

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Cotton struck out five and gave up one run in four productive innings, also overcoming a rolled ankle, in Wednesday's 7-3 win over the Mariners at Peoria Sports Complex.

"I had a full year in the big leagues; I'm glad the A's let me grind through it," said Cotton, who went 9-10 with a 5.58 ERA in 2017. "This year, the spots are open, and it's time to come in and compete and show them what I got, and hopefully land a job on the squad."

Cotton is battling with a group that includes Daniel Mengden, Paul Blackburn, Andrew Triggs and Daniel Gossett.

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"It's tough. It's my friends I'm going up against," Cotton said. "If they do good, I want to do better. I'm just coming for all of them and just try to do my best to come out on top."

Cotton allowed just three hits against the Mariners. His only run allowed came on a wild pitch in the fourth inning. Looking to cover the plate with Jean Segura bearing down, Cotton rolled his left ankle. He was on his hands and knees for a bit, talking with team trainers before he gingerly walked to the mound and stayed in the game after throwing several test pitches.

"I want to go out there and compete, show the A's what I have," Cotton said. "I don't want to call it quits after giving up a run like that. It felt good to go the entire four. I'm glad I got through it."

Melvin was also glad to see the 26-year-old Cotton not only get through the outing healthy, but do so efficiently.

"When he's throwing strikes and getting ahead, he's striking guys out and making guys look bad," Melvin said. "It's just about the consistency, and hopefully he can put the next one together like tonight."

Melvin praised Cotton's changeup, which Cotton was pleased with as well.

"My changeup was on point," Cotton said. "I keep telling myself that's the pitch that's going to get me out of jams. And today, that's what happened."

Chris Gabel is a contributor to MLB.com.

Oakland Athletics, Jharel Cotton