PHOENIX -- Tuesday was hard on Yoenis Cespedes.
The A's slugger was in left field for the first time this spring and the first ball of the game was a scorcher hit by the Brewers' Rickie Weeks right at him.
"That's one of the toughest plays for an outfielder,'' manager Bob Melvin said in the wake of the game, a come-from-behind 6-4 win over Milwaukee. Cespedes caught praise from his teammates, not to mention his manager, after a nice catch.
An inning later, with the game scoreless and the slowish Lyle Overbay on third base, Milwaukee's Martin Maldonado found Cespedes again, this time with a medium-deep fly ball.
Cespedes cranked up as if he was going to challenge Overbay, but thought better of it and let the veteran first baseman score.
"Oh, he wanted to let it go on that one,'' first base coach Tye Waller, the man who handles the A's outfielders, said. "It was good to see that he held back.''
It was that play as much as any that defined the big picture of spring training for the A's left fielder. Cespedes has a terrific arm, but he ended the 2013 season with nagging shoulder injuries, and it's taken a winter of rehab with a personal trainer and three weeks of carefully monitored spring training to get him to the point where he's close.
Tuesday he was deemed good to go in the outfield. But before and during the game, Waller got in Cespedes' ear to remind him to dial it back when it came to throwing.
"He's not quite where he needs to be as far as throwing the ball,'' Waller said. "He's got a great arm, one of the best in the game. In a normal situation he could throw out Overbay easily. But we want him ready to throw on opening day.
"We aren't concerned about him throwing out anybody right now. We know he can do it. We just want him to be healthy enough to do it."
The A's went six days of Cactus League games before Melvin was willing to put Cespedes' name in the lineup as anything other than a designated hitter. The reason was simple. They thought that in the heat of competition, Cespedes might find it difficult to always hold back.
"At least it shows that he has been listening,'' Melvin said breaking into a smile.
When he was able to do just that Tuesday and not challenge Overbay, the A's were able to take a big sigh of relief. Cespedes is, after all, the probable A's cleanup hitter, a man the team needs to be healthy if the club is going to make a strong drive for a third consecutive American League West title.
It wasn't much of a day offensively for Cespedes, who went 0 for 3 with a strikeout. His teammates did enough to get the A's through against the Brewers, scoring twice in the eighth inning and three times in the ninth. Max Muncy's single in the ninth tied it and Luke Montz's subsequent two-run homer produced the win.
In the other split-squad game, the bullpen gave up three runs in the bottom of the eighth as the Cubs emerged with a 6-4 win. Brandon Moss and Josh Reddick both had two hits, including an RBI, and Eric Sogard also had a hit and an RBI.
And the A's will only have seven relievers.
Closer Jim Johnson, setup men Ryan Cook, Sean Doolittle, Luke Gregerson and Dan Otero have jobs that are locked up, and it seems that Jesse Chavez is close. If the A's take a right-hander, it's likely to be Evan Scribner, who threw two scoreless innings Tuesday. Fernando Abad and Joe Savery are the top lefties until Eric O'Flaherty (Tommy John surgery) is back midseason.
A look at the 2013 A.L. leaders in outfield assists:
Name, team Assists
Alex Gordon, KC 17
Leonys Martin, TEX 14
Dayan Viciedo, CWS 12
Michael Brantley, CLE 11
Adam Jones, BAL 11
Yoenis Cespedes, OAK 10
David Murphy, TEX 10
Shane Victorino, BOS 10
Other notable A's
Josh Reddick 9