PHOENIX -- When A's manager Bob Melvin went to left-handed starter Brett Anderson to deliver the news that he'd be the opening-night starter, Anderson said Melvin "looked like he wanted a hug."

He didn't get one.

Melvin will have to settle for having the most veteran member of his young pitching staff leading a group that was among the most effective in the game last year.

"It's exciting to be the one they want to go give the team a chance to win," Anderson said. "I'm not going to jump up and down. But I take pride in that."

Anderson, who threw two scoreless innings in the A's 5-3 loss to the Chicago Cubs in Mesa on Thursday, will likely be matched against Seattle ace Felix Hernandez on April 1 in Oakland.

All the other A's starters had been assuming Anderson, 25, would be the man. Bartolo Colon still is under suspension for PED use dating back to last season, and Anderson is the only other member of the A's starting candidates who wasn't a rookie last year.

While Anderson only pitched in six games in 2012, they were in the heat of a pennant race after he came back from Tommy John-style ligament replacement surgery.

"We think he will be successful for us," Melvin said. "We feel he's the man to lead off for us."

Anderson, picked up in the Dan Haren trade with the Diamondbacks in 2007, went 4-2 with a 2.57 ERA in his six starts. With a little offensive support, he could have won at least once more, as he was backed by a combined two runs in his two losses.

Anderson was the starter Thursday against the Cubs, going two innings and giving up one hit. Four of his six outs were on ground balls.

"Today was good," he said. "I'm healthy. It's good to get the ground balls, although I don't know if I can sustain 10-plus per game."

Asked about Anderson's best assets, Melvin said, "For me, it's a tie. For one, it's his competitiveness. And second, it's his stuff. Out of uniform, if you met him, just to look at him, you would never guess how competitive he is.

"And he throws hard. He can turn sliders into curves. He can get the ball to the back foot of right-handed hitters, and he can (throw a) back-door (slider) to right-handers.''

  • It was a bit of an odd day for catcher Derek Norris. He got hit on the batting helmet by a bat on the follow-through of a swing. And he hit a homer, making him the first A's hitter with multiple homers this spring.

  • Closer Grant Balfour saw a doctor Thursday, two weeks after having a bit of meniscus removed from his right knee. Balfour, who threw 35 pitches on flat ground Thursday morning, is looking for clearance to throw off the mound.

  • An error on a play at second base cost Colon two unearned runs in the fourth. Because Colon should have been out of the inning, Melvin said, "he pitched all right. If we make a play, he doesn't give up those two runs."

  • Outfielder Chris Young was put through a second day of hard running. If his sore right quad comes through that without pain, he could be back in the lineup this weekend.

  • Center fielder Coco Crisp, scratched from the lineup Wednesday, played Thursday but was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the third.

  • Outfielder Michael Choice continues to make a favorable impression in camp. He doubled and tripled and drove in one run. "Right-handers, left-handers, they don't matter to him," Melvin said of Choice, one of the A's top prospects. "He came here to make an impression and he has." Choice is hitting .500 this spring.