Doolittle features live arm in '16 debut

Doolittle features live arm in '16 debut

OAKLAND -- There was much to glean from Sean Doolittle's first outing of the 2016 season. His eight-pitch outing against the White Sox in Monday's 4-3 loss was short, sweet and highly encouraging.

The A's closer, who maxed out at 92 mph during Spring Training, sat at 94 mph when it counted, even touching 95 with one of his six fastballs. His other two pitches, a changeup he's been working to perfect for weeks, resulted in swinging strikes.

"There's some guys that roll out of bed and come to Spring Training throwing 95, 97 mph, and traditionally in Spring Trainings past it's taken me a little longer to build up that velocity," Doolittle said. "But with the bright lights and the energy in the stadium, it usually increases the adrenaline levels a little bit and I'm able to get one or two more than I normally get during spring, so I was happy to see that."

Catcher Stephen Vogt said Doolittle, who missed much of 2015 with two shoulder injuries, had a fastball that "looked more natural, more like Sean from a couple years ago."

"He's going to be right back to where he needs to be, and he's been building gradually every outing," Vogt said. "I think that's a sign, too, that he's feeling better and feeling stronger."

An effective changeup can only make Doolittle's fastball better, and A's manager Bob Melvin said Tuesday that the ones he threw Monday "were the best changeups we've ever seen him throw."

"Previously, it's more a pitch just to show to try to get more play on the fastball, but it actually produced for him yesterday and got some bad swings," Melvin said. "I think that's going to be important for him going along, but also confidence-wise, knowing he can throw it in situations where you're just not wasting it to show."

"I've been working on it a lot, and we used it a bunch it Spring Training and I feel really confident with it," Doolittle said. "Whenever Vogt or [Josh] Phegley puts it down, it's no longer something I'm hesitant about. I feel confident in attacking with it, and it's not just a waste pitch anymore. I think it can help me be a little more efficient sometimes and keep my pitch count down, rather than getting in long battles with guys fouling pitches off and maybe make the fastball that much more effective."

Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.