OAKLAND - Sean Doolittle has spent much of the last month watching Raul Alcantara pitch.
The A's veteran reliever would like you to know that Alcantara's performance in his Major League debut Monday, three innings of a 10-7 loss to the Angels, isn't indicative of what the A's can expect to see as the right-hander settles into the Oakland rotation this year and next.
Alcantara hit three batters in the first inning Monday. He said it wasn't the result of nerves, but Doolittle suggested it might have been.
"I just spent three weeks with the Nashville team and I saw him pitch a few times," Doolittle said. "One of the best things about him is his control and his ability to move the ball around the strike zone with different pitches.
"Maybe nerves got to him a little bit today, but he's an exciting young guy. So hopefully now that he's got one under his belt, hopefully he can settle in next time and relax."
Pitching coach Curt Young wasn't willing to make too much of Alcantara's line - five earned runs in three innings on five hits, one walk, three hit batters and a balk. What stood out for Young was the progress from the first inning to the third, when Alcantara allowed one run on a double, a balk and a sacrifice fly.
"Until you experience that first Major League game, you are never quite sure how it's going to go," Young said. "Early on he was a little bit wild, but by the end he seemed to settle down a bit."
And five games from now, when Alcantara will make his second start?
"He seems like the kind of guy for as much hard work as he's put into his arm, I'm sure he'll be good," Young said.
Alcantara, still just 23 despite the fact the A's picked him up in the same trade with Boston that netted Oakland Josh Reddick after the 2011 season, was on the fast track to the big leagues when he blew out his elbow in 2014 after just three starts. He came back two months into the 2015 season, but it hasn't been until the last few months that he'd recaptured his game, including a 4-0 record and a 1.18 ERA in eight starts with Triple-A Nashville.
He said of Monday's game, "It wasn't me. I'm not used to pitching that way."
"I was trying to make perfect pitches," Alcantara said through an interpreter when it was suggested nerves got in the way.
When he couldn't manager Bob Melvin turned to Tuesday's scheduled starter, Ross Detwiler, to get the club through the middle of the game. With Detwiler unavailable, Zach Neal will get Tuesday's start before another Nashville callup, Jharel Cotton, makes his debut Wednesday.
Detwiler allowed three run in his first inning of work, but the A's scored four time during his stay to get close at 8-6, and when Khris Davis homered in the seven inning, the A's were just one run down. But Oakland left the bases loaded in the seventh and left two men on in the eighth before a couple of errors gave the Angels a couple of unearned runs in the ninth as the game slipped away, Oakland's sixth loss in seven games.
The A's, 58-79, have lost 24 of their last 35 to fall four games behind the Angels in the battle to avoid a last place finish in the American League West.