"I'm just in attack mode, no matter what," Cotton said.
The right-hander worked around three walks to put together four hitless innings against the Giants at Hohokam Stadium on Monday, continuing his strong bid for a rotation spot. For the third time in four outings this spring, he racked up five strikeouts, giving him 16 in 12 total innings.
Cotton has routinely struck out hitters in his professional career. Last year, he ranked second among American League rookies with 105 strikeouts. But he also had the sixth-highest ERA (5.58) and allowed 28 home runs.
The stuff is there. Using it to his best ability is key for Cotton, who lowered his Cactus League ERA to 3.75.
"He's starting to pitch a lot better," A's manager Bob Melvin said.
Cotton was without his best fastball command on this day, but he showed confidence in utilizing his changeup when behind counts to battle the hitter, all while keeping a good tempo.
"I was talking to [Matt Chapman] as we were walking in the clubhouse and what he said was, 'Hey Cotton, I like that, good tempo.' That's been my focus, having a good tempo to keep the guys on their toes out there and not have to throw too many pitches, and today I did that," Cotton said.
The A's have touted the competition between several starting candidates this spring, but there's also a chance they already have their minds made up. The dark horse remains lefty prospect A.J. Puk, who will be on display in the A's lone locally televised game of the spring schedule against the Mariners on Thursday evening.
Matt Joyce, who hasn't played the outfield in two weeks because of right elbow soreness, is expected to begin a throwing program following Wednesday's off-day.
"It's going to be odd seeing him walk over. I was going to ask him if he'd at least wear white shoes today so it didn't look that odd." -- Melvin, on reuniting with former A's pitching coach Curt Young, now fulfilling the same role for the Giants
Right-hander Kendall Graveman and the A's will make the trek to Surprise on Tuesday for a road matchup with the Royals at Surprise Stadium, scheduled for 1:05 p.m. PT. Kansas City will counter with lefty Danny Duffy. Listen to an exclusive audio webcast of the game on MLB.com.
Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010. Follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB.