For comeback hopefuls Josh Outman and Joey Devine, Sunday's Cactus League-opening 15-7 win over the Cubs was as real as it gets.
"I was nervous all day," Devine said. "I just had the butterflies. I was just so anxious."
That's because Devine hadn't faced opposing big league hitters in a quasi-official setting in more than two years. Same for Outman, who, like his teammate, has spent countless months rehabbing from Tommy John surgery.
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"I haven't seen this many fans and this kind of environment in a long time, and it just felt like baseball again," Devine said. "It was so nice to get back to."
Results, then, weren't as significant as their overall physical state by day's end. In that regard, both "felt good."
Devine, looking to again prove his worth as a quality member of the bullpen this spring, gave up one hit and one walk while facing five batters. The right-handed reliever noticed an improved change in his mechanics since his shaky intrasquad performance three days prior, and he is already gearing up to take to the mound again.
"I was locating my fastball, for the most part, really well," Devine said. "My breaking ball still needs a little more arm speed to get it back to where it was before I got hurt, but as far as location, to compare this to my last outing, it was so much better. I just did a couple things mechanically to slow things down, and it seemed to work. Now it's just a matter of developing arm speed, taking that into my next outing and keep building."
A beaming Devine said he realized he was "finally back" as he made his last warmup pitch and watched teammates throw the ball around the field. The next thing he knew, "I walked away feeling good."
"That's the most promising thing, whether I went three up, three down or whether I wasn't able to get an out," he said. "It's been so long, and I just wanted to get a feeling for what it was like again."
Outman, meanwhile, shared the same sense of optimism following a two-inning stint. The left-handed hurler, vying for the fifth spot in the rotation after being shut down in July of 2009, dueled nine Cubs batters and surrendered three hits but no runs. Manager Bob Geren deemed it a "decent outing" -- a fair assessment, given the situation.
"I was a little nervous," Outman said. "That was my first time out there in a year and a half facing Major League hitters, and some good ones at that. Command wasn't where I wanted it to be, but I felt good, and I can build on that for next time."
The southpaw, sporting high yellow socks in his spring debut, said nerves may have played a part in his command struggles and that his focus was mainly on trying not to overthrow the ball.
"The game's moving a little faster than it was in instructional league," Outman said with a smile, "so I'd like to slow things down the next time."
Both hurlers are slated to pitch again on Wednesday when Oakland hosts Cleveland.