The A's look for pie alternatives

PHOENIX -- The fourth season of Oakland's award-winning marketing campaign, "Green Collar Baseball," officially began Saturday, when the club introduced its new line of television commercials to the media.

"Coming off a season in which the campaign themes of hard work, gritty play, and unconventionality were brought to life so magically on the field, we are excited to continue Green Collar Baseball in 2013," said Jim Leahey, A's vice president of sales and marketing. "This year's advertising will allow fans to connect with the unique personalities on the team that our fans have embraced so enthusiastically."

On Saturday, Leahey was joined at Phoenix Municipal Stadium by DJ O'Neil, who is the creative director and founder of the team's advertising agency, Hub Strategy, to again put in motion these concepts.

Plenty of humor is found in the new batch of commercials, with fan favorites Josh Reddick and Coco Crisp landing the majority of air time. Manager Bob Melvin and coaches Mike Gallego and Chip Hale were also given a good amount of lines, and pitchers Sean Doolittle, Ryan Cook and Jarrod Parker all make their commercial debuts.

Gallego handles a possum in one of the ads and bloopers reveal he also dealt with a tarantula during filming. The tarantula, unfortunately, didn't make it into the final cuts.

Then there's the guru meditating with Crisp, Doolittle, Parker and Reddick in one commercial, and Crisp and Reddick testing out different pie alternatives -- think pizza, spaghetti and ham -- in another. Crisp and Reddick also team up in another ad that features the Bernie Lean, which was brought to life in Oakland last year.

"The A's make up for being a young team with an extra measure of effort, hustle, creativity, and fun -- and what better proof of this than the amazing season these guys had last year," said O'Neil. "Between the Bernie Lean and the walk-off pies, we had some great material to work into this year's TV campaign."

Last year's campaign earned second place in the 2013 National Sports Forum ADchievement Awards, the most recognized advertising competition in the sports industry.

Anderson feels good after five pain-free innings

Anderson, Network talk social media, A's clubhouse

PHOENIX -- The A's can let go of any worry tied to lefty Brett Anderson, who got in five innings in a Minor League game on Saturday just six days after suffering a minor neck injury.

Pitching against a Cubs' Minor League team on the road, Anderson allowed two runs on five hits with three strikeouts and four walks. But those aren't the important numbers for the A's. They'll see he tallied 62 pitches -- all pain-free -- after throwing just seven in his last start before departing early.

"This one was about eliminating all pain and doubt," Anderson said. "It was about making sure my body and arm feel good.

"I was a little rusty, but my body felt good, my arm felt good. Just the fact that I got up and down five times was good. I'm sure I'll be a little sore tomorrow, having made the jump from [seven] to 60-some pitches, but it was good to get my work in and get back on a normal schedule."

Anderson will make two more Cactus League starts in preparation for his April 1 Opening Day assignment.

"Those next two," he said, "just try to hone in on my pitches and make sure everything's starting to get crisp."

After shaky first inning, 'angry' Blackley settles down

Outlook: Blackley is more effective in the bullpen

PHOENIX -- Not once has Travis Blackley broke camp on a big league roster. On Saturday, the A's lefty made strides to potentially make that happen.

Inconsistent for much of the spring, Blackley appeared to be in for another forgettable outing, enabling the Angels to score three times in the first inning. Then he retired six of his final eight batters without allowing another run.

The transformation, he said, stemmed from "my intensity behind the pitch."

"I started getting to that fine line of anger, not to the point where I lost it, but angry where I thought, 'C'mon, this has got to change,'" he said. "There was a little more zip maybe, and I started getting that rhythm going, and the trust came along with it, started getting ahead of hitters. And that's how I felt last year. It felt good to finally feel like that. I was very pleased the way I came back after that first inning."

Blackley struck out four overall, including Mike Trout and Albert Pujols, while battling a heavy right-handed lineup. He found he wasn't keeping them honest with his fastball in the first inning, and by doing that in his final two frames, his breaking balls were better for it. His fastball, by the way, has some added velocity this spring, after Blackley put on 8-10 pounds this winter.

"That first inning, I threw a lot of junk early and they were laying off it so I got myself in bad counts," he said. "The second and third innings, I went right at them with the two-seamer and put myself in a better position to succeed and that's what happened.

"Considering it could have been a really bad day after the first, I'm happy with how it turned out. Today was the best I've felt since last year. Normally I'd be upset about three runs in three innings, but I'm actually real happy about that."

Blackley was highly versatile for the A's as a starter and reliever last year and is out of options, seemingly making his chances of remaining on the team as a reliever strong. But manager Bob Melvin wouldn't tip his hand when asked about Blackley's roster status following his Saturday start.

And while Melvin was happy to see Blackley throw all of his pitches for strikes, he noted, "You don't want to go out there and give up three runs in the first inning, either."

Said Blackley: "As for making the team, I'm just trying to put that out of my head and compete. Worrying about it won't change anything. I just gotta show that I'm the same guy I was last year, pitch ahead in counts, pitch to contact … be economical and stay out of those big innings."

Donaldson undeterred by lack of Cactus League hits

Outlook: Donaldson has shot at everyday job at third

PHOENIX -- Numbers would indicate that Josh Donaldson is Oakland's worst hitter this spring. But there's plenty of evidence proving otherwise.

Donaldson entered Saturday batting .111 through 11 games, before he went 1-for-2 with a home run to bump it to .138. Still, that's the lowest mark of any A's player with at least 15 at-bats. Donaldson has 29, with just four hits in that span. But he thinks he should have a lot more.

"I actually feel pretty good about where I am right now," Donaldson said Saturday. "I think I've lined out about 15 times. It's one of those things where, by the time the season rolls around, they're falling in."

The A's third baseman does have two more home runs in his pocket that he literally saved for a rainy day. Both came in a rained-out game against the Mariners but didn't count.

Then again, do any spring numbers?

Not when you have job security, as Donaldson does. Since last August, when he was promoted from Triple-A to replace an injured Brandon Inge, manager Bob Melvin has consistently supported Donaldson as the everyday guy at the hot corner. The team even moved Scott Sizemore from third back to second to accommodate Donaldson.

"When I came up the last time, I remember Bob telling the media, JD is our starting third baseman from here on out," Donaldson said. "That's huge for me. Him saying that I was going to get the playing time kind of allowed me to take my mind off the hitting and concentrate on defense. I've always been able to hit a little bit, and when I wasn't thinking about it too much, I started coming around."

After batting .153 with one home run in 28 games over two stints with the A's before the All-Star break, Donaldson returned in mid-August and hit .290 with eight home runs over his final 47 games. He also started all five games of the American League Division Series, batting .294.

"At times last year he was trying to do too much, trying to hit the ball out of the ballpark, which is something that he probably continually fights with a little bit," Melvin said. "But when he was successful last year, he knows he was hitting the ball all over the ballpark.

"They may not be falling in right now, but we're not worried about him. We like his approach."

Added Donaldson: "I feel like my approach is getting better every day, that I'm seeing the ball well and swinging at pitches that I want to swing at. Right now I'm just honing in on the zone, and that was a big part of what allowed me to turn it around last year. I was kind of swinging at everything, not really focusing on pitches I can hit. Now, I wait for them to show up. With two weeks left here, I feel like I'm right on pace."

And his defense, constantly in question since the day he removed his catcher's gear to play third base last spring, is now a non-issue.

"That's his strength," Melvin said. "He ended up being one of the top defenders in the league the last few months of the season -- one, because of hard work, [and] two, because he's a good athlete. He could literally probably play anywhere on the diamond."

Olson released to pursue chance to play in Korea

PHOENIX -- The A's released non-roster reliever Garrett Olson on Saturday so that he can pursue an opportunity to pitch in Korea.

The left-handed Olson, slowed early in camp by a sore hamstring, made five appearances for the A's this spring, allowing two runs with four strikeouts in a combined five innings. He was likely to start the year at Triple-A Sacramento.

Olson, 29, heads to East Asia after spending parts of each of the last six seasons in the Majors with the Orioles, Mariners, Pirates and Mets. He is 14-22 with a 6.26 ERA in 104 career appearances, many of which came in 2008, when he made 26 starts with the Orioles. He pitched in just five big league games, all in relief, over the last two seasons.

With Olson out of the mix, the A's have 45 players in camp, including 13 relievers.

Worth noting

• Reliever Fernando Rodriguez, advised by A's associate team orthopedist Dr. Will Workman to undergo Tommy John surgery after an MRI revealed a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow, will seek a second opinion by Dr. Thomas Mehlhoff, the Astros' team physician, on March 26 in Houston.

• Right-handed reliever Chris Resop tossed another two scoreless innings on Saturday, and his ERA remains at 0.00 through seven innings, spanning five games, this spring.