SCOTTSDALE -- A.J. Griffin had never thrown a pitch in a major league spring training game when he started for the A's in the American League Division Series against the Detroit Tigers in October. He finally got his first Cactus League start Tuesday.
Griffin didn't waste it, throwing two shutout innings in the A's 9-4 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks, giving up one hit while striking out three.
In the past year, he has gone from a pitcher his teammates didn't know to one the A's are counting on.
"He's a huge piece for us," right fielder Josh Reddick said. "He's proved he belongs in the rotation."
Griffin was one of nine pitchers the A's were holding back from pitching too soon and too often in what will be a longer-than-usual spring training because of the World Baseball Classic.
This comes after he won his first six decisions last season and the A's went 12-3 in his 15 starts, during which he was 7-1.
"He was so good right away that the expectations went up," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "You expected he would go 40-0. That's unrealistic, but he's a good pitcher who will get better and better.
"Today he was really, really good. When he's at his best, he's painting, and today he had his paintbrush out from the first."
Griffin's success this year will come with him having the benefit of a full spring to work. That will give him a chance to set goals. He said "early control" is one of those.
"Last year I would throw 30 pitches in the first inning," he said. "I'd wind up throwing six innings. If instead I could throw 12, I could get into the seventh or eighth."
But Nakajima, who was scheduled to only get two plate trips, was given a third, and he delivered a single between first and second base.
It came after batting coach Chili Davis took him aside and told him that he was trying too hard.
"Chili Davis told me I was being overaggressive in the first two at-bats," Nakajima said through an interpreter. "He told me to go up, be relaxed and be patient. I got the hit, and now I'm very much relaxed."
Anderson has widely been expected to be named the opening day starter. If he were to get four days off between each Cactus League start, he would wind up on normal rest April 1 when the A's begin the season at home against Seattle.
The A's won't make an announcement until after the pitchers have been told their assignments. An announcement could come by Friday.
Anderson is expected to be followed by Jarrod Parker, Tommy Milone, Griffin and Straily the first time through the rotation. After that, Bartolo Colon's suspension will be over, and he will be ready to displace one of the five, probably Griffin or Straily.
There isn't a job for him as the roster is configured, but he hit .389 in 39 games after a promotion to Triple-A Sacramento last year, and that got him on the A's shortlist.
"There's no question that he's swung the bat well, right from the get-go," Melvin said. "He made the most of his time in Triple-A, and we read the reports, but we really didn't know what he looked like.
"Now we have a face to identify with."
Jefry Marte hit an RBI double, Addison Russell had an RBI single, and Andy Parrino had a run-scoring grounder. Russell was the only A's player with two hits.