Jharel Cotton bounces back, ready for A's rotation

PHOENIX (AP) Jharel Cotton took a lesson from his previous spring start - it does him no good to sit around during long innings.

Cotton struck out seven and allowed a run over 5 2/3 innings, helping the Oakland Athletics beat the Milwaukee Brewers 11-1 on Sunday.

In his last start, Cotton allowed five runs in 3 2/3 innings against Seattle, all after Oakland's six-run third inning.

On Sunday, Oakland scored five runs in the third inning and another four in the fourth, and Cotton changed up his strategy, opting to do some throwing while the A's piled up the runs.

''I didn't want to do what I did last time where I sat the entire time and my arm was just lagging,'' Cotton said. ''Today I was proactive, playing catch to stay loose, and I didn't skip a beat out there on the mound.''

Cotton held the Brewers to four hits and a walk. He walked five Mariners in an 8-5 win last Tuesday.

''I think this was a bounce-back start for me,'' Cotton said. ''I walked one guy compared to last time I walked a bunch. So I felt like today was just to get back into it.

''My confidence is back where it needs to be and I'm ready to go forth. I think I'm where I need to be. I feel good. My arm feels great.''

Cotton has a standout changeup, but he focused on his fastball command against the Brewers.

''I was more on the attack, using my fastball more so I can setup my changeup and offspeed pitches,'' Cotton said. ''I need my fastball to be there, so I can throw that pitch off the fastball. I think we did that today.''

Ryan Braun homered on a 2-0 fastball in the fourth for the only run off Cotton. Cotton struck out Braun in the first and fifth innings.

''I got him twice. He got me once. I think I won that battle today,'' Cotton said.

Kendall Graveman and Sean Manaea will start the first two A's games with Cotton slotted for the third game, April 5 against the Los Angeles Angels.

The back of the rotation was solidified Sunday when Jesse Hahn was optioned to Triple-A Nashville. Hahn made 25 starts the past two seasons for Oakland, going 8-10 with a 4.22 ERA. Hahn, however, allowed 14 runs over 6 2/3 innings in his past two spring training starts.

''It's disappointing for sure, because I set a goal this spring, and that was to make the rotation,'' Hahn said. ''I didn't do that, but I can't get down on myself. I have to stay positive. I know these last two outings didn't go the way I wanted them to.''

With Hahn demoted, right-handers Andrew Triggs and Raul Alcantara become the fourth and fifth Oakland starters. Cotton, Triggs and Alcantara have combined for 16 big league starts.

''These guys get an opportunity they've never had before,'' manager Bob Melvin said.

Catcher Bruce Maxwell had two home runs and four RBIs, but the A's optioned him to Nashville after the game.

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