GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Grant Balfour normally pitches the ninth inning, but Thursday he pitched the sixth in the A's 10-9 win over Cincinnati.

The A's closer, who is recovering from mid-February arthroscopic knee surgery, needs to face big league hitters, which is why he took over in the sixth inning and motored through Devin Mesoraco, Derrick Robinson and Emmanuel Burris on nine pitches. He probably won't work the ninth inning for another week, when the A's and Giants play their annual Bay Bridge Series.

"At this time of the spring, if I wait until the ninth inning, I'll be facing Triple-A guys," Balfour said.

Even in the sixth inning, he wasn't facing the Reds' best. Second baseman Brandon Phillips was due up, but Burris pinch hit.

"I was really happy with the way I threw," Balfour said after hitting 94 mph on the radar gun. "I didn't feel anything with the knee, didn't even think about it."

Balfour is likely to get four more relief appearances before April 1, when he is expected to resume his role as the A's closer. But the A's aren't necessarily going to make him pitch in consecutive games before the season starts.

"I don't know if he really needs to go back-to-back,'' manager Bob Melvin said. "We'll talk about that."

  • The numbers put up Thursday against the Reds by Oakland starter Brett Anderson -- six earned runs in 42/3 inning, eight hits, two homers -- won't win any beauty contests.


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    "The results weren't awesome, but I got in my pitches and I worked on some things," said Anderson, who will be the opening night starter April 1. "I threw some pitches I wouldn't normally throw in a regular season game, and some of them got hit."

    Anderson continues to work on his changeup, a pitch that he doesn't use much, but one that he would like to add to the fastball, curve and slider.

    "The change is a work in progress," he said. "I got a couple of ground balls with it. And it got hit hard a couple of times."

    "We'll see if the changeup gets to the point where it gives him a fourth pitch to throw," Melvin said.

  • Mike Ekstrom pitched Anderson out of trouble in the fifth inning, getting the last out. It was the right-hander's eighth appearance of the spring, during which he has a 1.64 ERA.

    He has little chance to make the opening day roster, but he knew that when he left the Rockies to sign with the A's this off-season.

    "Last year, the Rockies sent me to the minor leagues after pitching in one game," Ekstrom said. "I came here because I knew it wasn't going to be like that. They had the best bullpen in the majors last year, and they've only added to it. But they want to let you pitch. They've given me a chance to show what I can do, and I think this spring has gone even better than I could have hoped."

    Ekstrom probably will go to Triple-A Sacramento, but given that the A's went through 50 roster spots last year, his chances of pitching in the big leagues are good.

  • Brandon Moss and Yoenis Cespedes played in minor league games, but Hiroyuki Nakajima, who was supposed to do the same, apparently didn't. Melvin said he hadn't heard why plans had changed.

  • Catcher Derek Norris continues to crush the ball. He raised his average to .379 with a single and two-run homer. Josh Donaldson singled, doubled and drove in two runs, getting his average to .205.

  • Lefty Travis Blackley gave up three runs in three innings but picked up the save. He continues to struggle, however, with a 14.34 ERA.