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Surkamp to open Cactus League slate for A's

Top prospect Manaea, Doubront to start split-squad games on Friday
MLB.com @JaneMLB

MESA, Ariz. -- The A's will begin Cactus League play against the host Angels on Thursday with left-hander Eric Surkamp on the mound.

Sean Manaea, Oakland's top pitching prospect, will start the club's first home game the following day against the Rockies as part of split-squad action, with lefty Felix Doubront slated to take the mound at the same time in a matchup with the D-backs at Salt River Fields.

MESA, Ariz. -- The A's will begin Cactus League play against the host Angels on Thursday with left-hander Eric Surkamp on the mound.

Sean Manaea, Oakland's top pitching prospect, will start the club's first home game the following day against the Rockies as part of split-squad action, with lefty Felix Doubront slated to take the mound at the same time in a matchup with the D-backs at Salt River Fields.

Veteran lefty Rich Hill, signed to a one-year, $6 million deal this offseason, will make his Cactus League debut Saturday with a start against the Brewers at Hohokam Stadium.

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Surkamp, a sixth-round Draft pick by the Giants in 2008, split time with the White Sox and Dodgers organizations last year and went 12-3 with a 3.39 ERA in 27 appearances, including 16 starts, in the Minors. He pitched in 35 games as a reliever with the White Sox in 2014, going 2-0 with a 4.81 ERA, and he made a handful of appearances over seven stints with San Francisco in 2011 and 2013. 

The A's signed the 6-foot-5 southpaw to a Minor League deal in December.

"I just thought it was a good fit for me," Surkamp said. "I've kind of bounced around and been up and down the past couple of years, and the A's seem to be an organization that's going to let the best guy go out there, whoever is pitching the best. For guys like myself, I think that's something you look for, just any opportunity at this point."

A's brass got an early look at Surkamp on Monday during an intrasquad game in which he needed just 10 pitches to get through a perfect inning, recording a strikeout against Billy Burns. Manaea pitched the top half of the same frame, fanning Mark Canha and Chris Coghlan.

Of Surkamp, A's manager Bob Melvin said, "It looks like there's some deception. He's tall, kind of a long arm swing, the ball has some subtle movement to it. Looking at his numbers, it looks like he commands the baseball pretty well. Time to take a look at him."

"I'll take any opportunity I can get," Surkamp said. "It's definitely nice it happens to be the first game, but whether it's the first or the fifth, it's just nice to have the opportunity to compete for a job up here again. I'm just trying to do what I can, stick to my plan and just let everything else play out."

Righty Aaron Brooks was originally scheduled to start Thursday, but he was traded to the Cubs for Coghlan last week.

The A's have yet to reveal their pitching plans beyond Saturday, but Melvin confirmed they won't involve ace Sonny Gray for the first week of the exhibition schedule. Similar to last spring, "we're not going to throw too much at him this spring," Melvin said.

Gray, who threw to hitters for the first time this spring on Monday, is likely to draw a couple of starts in Minor League games in place of Cactus League outings.

"He likes that dynamic where he knows he's going to get his pitches in, he can work on certain things, so you might not see as much of him as you do some other starters this spring," Melvin said.

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB.

Oakland Athletics, Sonny Gray, Sean Manaea