PEORIA, Ariz. -- Hiroyuki Nakajima arrived at spring training Tuesday with none of the media fanfare that greeted the highly touted Japanese shortstop a year ago.

Called over from the A's minor league complex in the morning as a replacement for injured Addison Russell, Nakajima was a late-inning substitution against the Padres.

Nakajima was projected to be the A's starting shortstop in 2013. Now, Nakajima, who never spent a day in the majors after signing a two-year, $6.5 million contract before last season, isn't even on the A's 40-man roster.

The team says it hasn't given up on Nakajima. But A's manager Bob Melvin didn't paint a promising picture when asked the chances of the 31-year-old infielder reaching the majors this season.

"There would probably have to be some injuries to guys we have here," Melvin said. "But who knows? Anything could happen in baseball, and I think he realizes that, and I think that's why he's here working as hard as he is and trying to get back to the big leagues."

Nakajima played two innings at the end of Tuesday's 6-5 loss to San Diego. He didn't get an at-bat but was involved in two defensive plays. He covered second base on a double play and got taken out fairly hard and was unable to get off a good throw to first. He also had a line drive to his left glance off his glove for a hit.

Nakajima says he understood his situation coming into this season but hopes to make a more significant impact this season.

"I'm just going to play hard every day," Nakajima said through an interpreter. "Physically, I feel very good. I just want to get better results in the minor leagues this year and be able to get called up to the big leagues."

There was some question whether Nakajima would return to the U.S. for another season given his status in the organization.

"For him to come back and just be a minor leaguer this year, it's pretty impressive that he wants to do that," Melvin said. "I'm sure he could have gone back to Japan and played, but he wants to prove himself here again, and it's nice we're going to be able to bring him over, and he will get into (spring) games."

Things changed quickly a year ago when Oakland acquired veteran infielder Jed Lowrie from Houston, and Nakajima's chances were further diminished when he suffered a hamstring injury in spring training.

Nakajima spent the entire season at Triple-A Sacramento and hit .283 with four homers and 34 RBIs, playing in just 90 games. The A's outrighted him on Aug. 17, but due to the size of his contract, he was not claimed by another club.

Nakajima played second and third base with the River Cats in addition to shortstop in the hopes that he could increase his chances of getting to the big leagues. Melvin said the odds could be better this year if Nakajima hits closer to his .302 career average in 10 full seasons in Japan. At Sacramento, he also didn't show the power he displayed while hitting 162 career homers in Japan.

"I think the numbers are pretty indicative of what they said they were seeing," Melvin said. "Maybe this year he'll be a little more comfortable. One thing we heard about him in Japan is that he studied pitchers, knew the pitchers very well. I think for him, seeing different guys and not knowing how he was going to be pitched maybe affected him some."

Melvin said Russell will likely be shut down from baseball activity for a week to heal his right hamstring, which tightened up on him breaking out of the box after hitting a double Monday against the Dodgers. Russell said he felt much better Tuesday but both he and club want to make sure he is 100 percent before returning to the field.

"He was going to play a lot and he is," Melvin said. "We've seen him enough to get a better understanding of what our development people see on a day-to-day basis during the season. We expected him to impress and he has impressed, so it's too bad that had to happen. It set him back."

  • After experimenting with some things in his first two starts and paying the price with 12.00 ERA, Sonny Gray said he went back to regular-season attack mode in his third outing. The results showed — four shutout innings, one scratch single, no walks and two strikeouts.

    "It was a completely different mindset, which is really big for me," Gray said. "I just attacked it more like a real game and it went pretty well. I was thinking more `let's get this guy out' rather than working on stuff and feeling my way around the mound."

    "He's a guy who grinds on everything and he was pretty serious today down in the bullpen," said Melvin of Gray. "He had everything working today."

  • Lowrie hit his first spring home run and added a double while Coco Crisp had a pair of doubles and Josh Reddick an RBI single as the A's jumped out to a 4-0 lead against San Diego starter Ian Kennedy.

  • Derek Norris, who has missed nearly a week with back spasms, will likely return to action Wednesday. Outfielder Craig Gentry hit off a tee and appears to be on the mend from a troubled back, but he's still likely a ways from playing in a game.

    Follow Carl Steward on Twitter at twitter.com/stewardsfolly.