Notes: Harden sharp as games begin
Gissell adjusts to American ball; fundamentals improving
PHOENIX -- Rich Harden was facing hitters for the first time since September, but he looked none the worse for it during the A's final intrasquad game Wednesday at Papago Park.
Harden faced the minimum in a two-inning stint, striking out Daric Barton and Rob Bowen. He allowed a single to Mike Sweeney, who was erased by Donnie Murphy's double-play grounder.
"I think it went all right," Harden said. "I guess it was pretty normal. Overall, I felt good."
Harden threw mostly fastballs, but he did mix in a couple of changeups and one curveball. He is expected to throw three innings in his first Cactus League start next week, although he said he feels like he could go longer.
"I've been feeling that way for the last couple weeks," Harden said. "You always want to go more."
Gissell adjusting: Chris Gissell, 30, joined the A's as a non-roster invitee this spring after pitching for Japan's Seibu Lions for two years. Now, after adjusting to the Japanese game, Gissell finds himself trying to adjust back to American ball.
Gissell threw two scoreless innings Wednesday, allowing two hits and striking out one.
"I was kind of inconsistent, I'd throw one good batter and one bad batter," Gissell said.
From the way the pitching rubber feels underneath his feet to the way catchers set up, Gissell has adjusted to myriad differences in trying to impress the A's.
"[I want to] just show them that I'm capable of pitching in the big leagues, throwing strikes and getting outs," Gissell said. "Over in Japan, that's an opposite approach. They don't want you to throw a strike on the first pitch, at least the team I was on."
Gissell was 6-4 with a 3.96 ERA in 18 starts in 2006 and 1-9 with a 5.21 ERA in 14 games last year. He was 0-1 with a 14.54 ERA in five games with the Rockies in 2004.
Baserunning, defense better: One day after being dismayed by the A's baserunning in their first intrasquad game, manager Bob Geren liked what he saw Wednesday.
Mike Sweeney was thrown out trying to stretch a single into a double because of a strong, on-target throw by right fielder Jeff Fiorentino, but Geren liked Sweeney's aggression.
"It was good baserunning and good fielding put together," Geren said. "It took a perfect throw to get him ... and you like to see a runner take that chance."
Others who impressed: Sweeney singled in both his at-bats, while reliever Joey Devine showed excellent stuff in one inning, walking one and punching out two. He threw his fastball inside to lefties effectively.
Left, right, left, right: It's no secret that the A's are loaded with left-handed bats, and Geren might have a hard time constructing a lineup for some games because of that.
"Left-right [distribution] is by who we're playing," Geren said. "If they have a particular guy in their bullpen who can run through some lefties, I take that into consideration, but I tend to live by the philosophy of trying to beat the starter."
In other words, don't be surprised if some starting lineups feature an uninterrupted string of lefty bats.
Situational awareness: Prior to Wednesday's intrasquad game, the A's ran through a short situational game, in which they practiced what to do defensively in various situations with men on base, or if the opponent hit and run, and so forth.
"[It is] a lot of team fundamentals taking place, impromptu-style," Geren said.
Postgame fun: Robert Buan will broadcast the A's Extra Innings postgame show from Upper Deck Sports Grill at 4224 N. Craftsman Ct. in Scottsdale, immediately after Saturday's road game against the Giants. Barton will be a guest.
Mark Thoma is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.