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Nakajima walks, helps turn two in spring debut

PHOENIX -- Ryan Braun homered in his first at-bat of the year and the Brewers led all nine innings in the traditional opener between the Cactus League's two Phoenix-based teams, beating the A's, 2-1 at Maryvale Baseball Park on Saturday.

Braun may be a step ahead of other hitters this spring because he's been preparing to be Team USA's regular left fielder in next month's World Baseball Classic. With two outs in the first inning, he connected with a 1-and-2 pitch from A's starter Jesse Chavez for a solo homer to center field.

"Certainly, it's a good sign," Braun said. "I would rather homer than strike out, especially staying through the middle, hitting the ball the other way. When I'm going my best, that's what I do."

Braun began hitting and throwing well ahead of Christmas in an effort to be ready to play all nine innings by March 8, when Team USA plays its first Classic game against Mexico. He is already planning to ramp up his workload with back-to-back games on Monday and Tuesday.

His first-inning home run came right after Oakland missed a chance to take an early lead against Brewers starter Mike Fiers, who loaded the bases with two outs in the top of the first inning before striking out Chris Young on three pitches. Fiers returned to work a 1-2-3 second inning before calling it a day, after allowing one hit and two walks in two scoreless innings.

The Braun homer was Milwaukee's only hit against Chavez, who walked two batters in two innings.

The Brewers tacked on another run in the fourth inning on Jean Segura's RBI groundout, and Oakland answered in the seventh when Shane Peterson greeted Brewers reliever Santo Manzanillo with a double and scored on Michael Choice's single.

In his unofficial A's debut, shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima walked and struck out. He also teamed with second baseman Jemile Weeks to turn a highlight-reel double play in the second inning.

"The environment and the ambience were fabulous, and it pumped me up," Nakajima said through a translator.

A's up next: The A's will make the short trek over to Tempe, Ariz., on Sunday for a road contest with the Angels, and they'll be bringing a strong cast of characters with them to face Angels righty Barry Enright. Outfielder Yoenis Cespedes is slated to make his Cactus League debut, as are Coco Crisp and Jed Lowrie, whose first game in the green and gold will come at shortstop. On the mound will be lefty Travis Blackley, who will be stretched out as a starter this spring while he battles for a roster spot as a long-relief option. First pitch at Tempe Diablo Stadium is set for 12:05 PT.

Adam McCalvy is a reporter for Read his blog, Brew Beat, and follow him on Twitter at @AdamMcCalvy.
Read More: Oakland Athletics, Michael Choice, Bruce Billings, Hiroyuki Nakajima