GLENDALE -- There was no shortage of Cuban cleanup hitters Tuesday at Camelback Ranch.

The A's started left fielder Yoenis Cespedes in the No. 4 slot. The Dodgers countered with Yasiel Puig, who has never played in a big league game.

Once the season starts, Cespedes will be the Oakland cleanup hitter. Puig, whom Cespedes played against in Cuba for two seasons, likely will be batting cleanup for one of the Dodgers' minor league teams.

But by the time Puig makes it to the big leagues, he may learn from Cespedes' 2012 experience and dodge many of the issues that dogged Cespedes in his debut season.

Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes answers questions during a press conference at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, in Phoenix, Arizona, on Sunday, March 4, 2012.
Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes answers questions during a press conference at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, in Phoenix, Arizona, on Sunday, March 4, 2012. Cespedes played in eight seasons for Granma in Cuba's Serie Nacional before defecting following the 2010-11 season. (Anda Chu/Contra Costa Times/MCT) (ANDA CHU)

"We talked before the game," Cespedes said through interpreter Ariel Prieto. "I told him to work hard no matter where they send you, because you never know when they're going to call you up. He's a complete baseball player."

Cespedes wanted to make a big impression after signing last spring, and he spent hours working on his swing. All that work wore him down by season's end.

The left fielder has learned from that.

"He's pacing himself," manager Bob Melvin said. "He wasn't as understanding of what a 162-game schedule could do last year as he is now. He understands pace."

Cespedes still is seen as one of the hardest workers in the A's camp.

"He doesn't ease into anything," Melvin said. "That makes it our job to get him to cut back a little."


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Both Cuban sluggers had good days Tuesday in the Dodgers' 7-1 win over Oakland. Puig hit a two-run homer off Dan Straily in the first inning. Cespedes led off the fifth with his second homer of the spring for the A's only run.

  • Although the A's won't have Bartolo Colon in their starting rotation for the first week of the season, he's almost certainly going to be there after he serves the final five days on his 2012 suspension for performance-enhancing drugs.

    Melvin said one of the young starters likely will be sent to Triple-A Sacramento to make room for Colon once he becomes eligible. Straily and A.J. Griffin seem to be the pitchers on the bubble.

    "We're getting one of them ready to start at Triple-A," Melvin said.

    That one may be Straily, who gave up three first-inning runs and has a 6.59 ERA.

    Straily was encouraged by his start, saying that he traditionally has bad springs.

    "I've always made teams based on what I did the year before, not on what I do in spring training," Straily said.

    Melvin is tired of seeing his team fall behind early, which as happened too often this spring.

    "You can't give up three in the first," Melvin said. "You can't get two quick outs, then walk the next guy on four pitches. You can't do that. You want to see progress."

    Colon, who owns an 0-2 record and 7.36 ERA this spring, hasn't impressed, but the body of work he's put together in his career (171-122, 4.05 ERA) has secured his spot in the rotation. He will pitch in a minor league game Wednesday, the final day off of the Cactus League for Oakland.

  • The grip that Hiroyuki Nakajima had on the starting shortstop job is getting more tenuous.

    Nakajima, batting ninth for the first time this spring, went hitless in two at-bats, dropping his average to .176. He also dropped a pop fly, his fourth error of the spring.

    Melvin, who has been moving Nakajima around the lineup, said he likes to have speed in the No. 9 spot, so he's giving the shortstop a look there. But if Nakajima's hitting troubles continue, he's going to have trouble securing a starting job.

    The manager said he hadn't had time to talk to Nakajima about the botched popup -- whether the shortstop lost the ball in the sun or just fumbled the catch. But Melvin seemed less concerned about the offense.

    "He hit a ball hard to shortstop and one not so hard to shortstop," Melvin said. "We're starting to see better (results in) batting practice. There is some progression there."

  • Colon will be the only A's big leaguer in action during Wednesday's day off. It's the A's last off-day until March 31, when they're off before the April 1 regular-season opener against the Seattle Mariners.

  • 2B Eric Sogard had a single coming off the bench and has six hits in his last six at-bats to lift his batting average to .531 (17-for-32).

  • Grant Balfour will get his first appearance on a Cactus League mound Thursday. He threw in a minor league game Monday, his first game experience since mid-February's arthroscopic surgery on his right knee.