Hahn feels good after long-awaited return

March 8th, 2016

MESA, Ariz. -- For A's starting pitcher Jesse Hahn, "it felt like it was two, three years ago" when he last took the mound in front of a crowd. In reality, it was more like eight months, but that was still long enough to warrant the thrill that came with the right-hander's spring debut on Monday.
Pitching against the Royals, Hahn made one mistake with his changeup -- hit for a home run by Mike Moustakas -- but he was otherwise impressive in a two-inning performance, sporting good life on his fastball while mixing in his signature curveball. The changeup remains a work in progress, but even that looked good when it wasn't being driven over the fence.
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A's catcher Stephen Vogt, who homered twice from the designated-hitter spot in the 6-4 Oakland victory, fell victim to this very pitch when standing in the box against his batterymate recently.
"When I faced him a couple days ago, he threw me some really good ones," Vogt said. "And with as much run as he gets and with that big curveball, if he can just get that changeup to have some depth, which he did today, that's a good sign. He's moving in the right direction with it."
Health remains the priority, though, after Hahn missed the second half of the 2015 season with a right forearm strain, giving cause for concern that he could be a candidate for a second Tommy John surgery. But he's expected to enter the season fully healthy.
"I felt great today," Hahn said. "I was really excited about that.
"I think the stuff was there. Obviously this early on I think there's a little rust I need to work out, need to get the ball down a little bit, but still, in my mind I'm healthy, and that's all I really cared about, was to go out there for the first time and feel good."
"You could see that out of him, he was pretty happy," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "Gave up one home run, but just the fact he felt great about it, everything was there that he needed, good extension, it's a nice start for him, mentally and physically."
Hahn issued a four-pitch walk to his second batter of the day, citing added adrenaline, but he made quick work of most of his other opponents, compiling five ground-ball outs.
"He looked awesome," Vogt said. "I had the pleasure of facing him a few days ago, so I can attest he didn't help my confidence level, but he looks great. Ball's moving a lot, you could tell by some of the swings they were taking that it's got good movement. Changeup looked good, outside of the one mistake to Moustakas. He looked outstanding, was getting weak contact, it was great."
More debuts
Hahn wasn't the only A's pitcher to make his first Cactus League appearance Monday; the club saw a slew of arms get into game action for the first time, including starter Kendall Graveman and relievers Ryan Madson and John Axford.
Graveman was on the hook for two runs (one earned) on two hits with one walk and two strikeouts over two innings, while Madson and Axford each threw a scoreless frame.
Madson, pitching against his former Royals club, particularly impressed, especially with a cutter that Melvin said was better than he remembered.
"Just getting out there and pitching in a game again, it was a rush," Madson said. "That's the crazy part. I've been doing this for a long time, but that was still like the first time almost. It was a lot of fun. It's unmatchable off the field."
Worth noting
• Mark Canha, who has been dealing with back stiffness, took two rounds of batting practice on Monday and could play in his first Cactus League game by the end of this week, said Melvin, who noted he's spoken with the young slugger about possibly playing some center field this spring when he's not playing left, right or first base.
"We're fairly covered at this point, but maybe if we get a little bit later on, we'll give him some time to work out and play some center field," Melvin said. "It could be an option for him."