Injuries, chickenpox won't get Ynoa down

Published: Friday, Feb. 22, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 2C

PHOENIX – Four years after he joined the A's, Michael Ynoa still hasn't pitched above Class A.

Signed by Oakland for $4.25 million when he was 16, Ynoa has been limited to 17 professional games because of elbow problems.

Now on the 40-man roster of the A's, the 21-year-old right-hander reported to spring training Thursday after missing the opening week because of chickenpox.

"For one week, it was bad," Ynoa said.

Given his 6-foot-7 height, Ynoa caught the attention of A's manager Bob Melvin.

"I didn't realize he was that size," Melvin said. "He could probably reach out and drop the ball in the catcher's mitt. I'm looking forward to watching him pitch. Everybody says he's pretty special when he's healthy."

Ynoa has yet to go through a full season. He started his career on the disabled list with the A's affiliate in the Arizona Rookie League because of a strained right elbow and he missed the entire season.

He made three starts in 2010 before more elbow problems and had surgery that August to reconstruct his ulnar collateral ligament.

Ynoa returned to the mound last June and made a combined 12 starts and two relief appearances for the Arizona League A's and Vermont of the Class-A New York-Penn League, going 1-4 with a 6.45 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 30 2/3 innings.

He is working on a cutter, a pitch that intrigued him when he saw it during televised games while he was sidelined.

"I feel great mentally, and now I am ready to do my best and just keep going," Ynoa said. "I'm OK with everything."

There are no restrictions on him, and Melvin expected Ynoa to be ready to appear in a game in two weeks.

"It's just like any other pitcher in spring training," Melvin said. "He's just a little behind."

Et cetera – Jemile Weeks, knocked off the mountaintop last year, said his 2012 season was a fluke and that he's going to make the A's decision on a starter at second base difficult.

Weeks was the Opening Day second baseman last March, when the A's began the season by playing two games against the Seattle Mariners in Japan. By mid-August, he was demoted to Triple-A Sacramento.

"It's very important to me to be the starter again," Weeks said. "The next 35-40 days are a time when I can prove myself, show myself and force the A's hand. It's up to the brass to make the decisions, but I'm going to make it hard on them."

• A's strength and conditioning coach Michael Henriques introduced yoga into warmups with players who arrived early in camp and it has caught on, with pitchers using it regularly. Melvin went through his first yoga stretch Thursday. "Everybody enjoys it," he said.

• Jarrod Parker, Sean Doolittle, Jerry Blevins and Ryan Cook each threw batting practice for the first time.

• The Arizona Diamondbacks used the A's minor-league facility at Papago Park for a scrimmage. The fields at Salt River were soaked after being covered in snow Wednesday.

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Read more articles by Rick Eymer

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