OAKLAND -- Hurlers Joey Devine and Josh Outman are prepared to enter the offseason as normally as any other Major League pitchers would.
That doesn't sound like much, but considering what each has endured over the last year, the notion speaks volumes.
Devine and Outman, both of whom underwent Tommy John surgery last year followed by multiple setbacks that kept them off the field this season, are back on schedule and very much expected to enter Spring Training fully healthy in February.
The right-handed Devine, who in 2008 posted a 0.59 ERA in 42 appearances with Oakland, recently finished rehab work in the club's instructional league in Arizona, where he threw 20 pitches (one inning) in six games without any pain.
"I threw the ball well," Devine said via phone from his home in Atlanta on Tuesday. "I threw all my pitches. My location wasn't great, but that's to be expected when you're still trying to build arm strength. Everything else felt good."
The 27-year-old reliever, now free of rehab and therapy, plans to rest his arm for six weeks before picking up a ball again in early December. At that point, he'll take part in a typical offseason throwing routine -- likely with guidance from noted orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews -- before reporting to camp and competing for a bullpen role.
"I definitely feel like I'm competing for a spot," he said. "Nothing's ever certain in this game. I want to earn a position in the bullpen, and in order to do that, I first have to prove I'm healthy. Right now I feel great, and it's absolutely a good feeling knowing I can have a normal offseason."
Outman, 26, is taking that same mindset into the offseason after he finishes work in the instructional league, where he'll make his fifth and final start -- four innings, if all goes well -- on Thursday. The lefty described his first outing as "discouraging" but noted that his last three have represented "a big step in the right direction."
"I'm starting to get to where I feel like I'm really pitching again," he said by phone on Tuesday, "rather than just waiting for something to hurt. I'm not quite back to where I was. There are still aches and pains, but I think that's just from getting my pitch count up again. The important thing is, I feel more relaxed -- and I haven't pitched relaxed in a long time. It will be good to kind of finish on a high note."
"He's throwing the ball great," Devine said of his teammate. "His velocity is almost identical, in the 88-93 mph range, which is good. He's throwing a lot of strikes and getting a lot of outs."
Like Devine, Outman will also be part of what should be an interesting competition in Spring Training. The southpaw will likely be pitted against Vin Mazzaro, Bobby Cramer and Tyson Ross in a battle for the fifth-starter spot, with the winner joining the expected foursome of Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson, Gio Gonzalez and Dallas Braden.
"I'm going to go into [the competition] with the same mindset I did before '09," said Outman, who began 2009 as the A's fifth starter. "That fifth spot was up for grabs, and that's how it's going to be again. I want to compete for it, earn it. I don't know what they're going to do, but I plan on earning that fifth spot.
"It would be nice to be part something like that, with the pitching staff we already have. Those are four big names, and to be a part of it would be a great feeling."
In the meantime, Outman is ready to head home soon to Missouri, where he'll put baseball aside for a handful of weeks and instead focus on the pending arrival of his first child with wife Ashley, who is expecting a baby girl in January. Not too far behind is Erin, Devine's wife, who is also pregnant with the couple's first child.
"We talked them into it," Outman joked.