Neal excited to make first start

Neal excited to make first start

SEATTLE -- Zach Neal got his first taste of the Major Leagues in a hostile environment on May 11. He pitched three innings for the A's at Fenway Park in his debut and gave up three runs.

On Wednesday, the right-hander will make his first Major League start, and it won't be in a particularly forgiving environment either.

Neal, who was recalled from Triple-A Nashville to start in place of injured staff ace Sonny Gray, gets the ball on the road against the Mariners and will face a club that's been in or near first place in the American League West for a few weeks.

But Neal said he'll just try to focus on what he's been doing in Nashville to the tune of a 5-1 record, a 2.53 ERA and an opponents' batting average of .225. Also, he'll be a starter again, which is what he's been for his entire career save that Boston appearance to save a beleaguered bullpen in the midst of a 13-3 loss.

"It's really exciting," said Neal, a Dallas native whose parents, Quin and Kim, were at the game in Boston and will be at the game in Seattle. "It's what I've been waiting for a long time, and hopefully I'll take advantage of it and do the job that needs to be done."

Neal said he's not going to make anything bigger out of this one game and he's not going to try to look ahead to where this opportunity could eventually land him.

"My career is day by day," Neal said. "I take it one step at a time and I control what I can control. This is a good opportunity for me, and that's all I look at. It's just another day, just in a different stadium with a different group of guys that are great guys.

"Everything's obviously a little nicer, but it's still baseball. That's the mindset I have."

And the A's mindset for Neal is to just let him pitch his game and see what happens.

"As far as expectations go, I think his expectations are to go out and give his team a chance to win," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "That would be our expectation as well."

Lowrie rejoins team: Jed Lowrie (shin contusion) was activated from the DL and was expcted to get back in the A's lineup at second base on Wednesday night. He was in the visiting clubhouse at Safeco Field on Tuesday after his one-game rehab stint with Triple-A Nashville. That club played in Las Vegas on Monday, and Lowrie started at second base and went 1-for-4 with a run scored and a walk.

Lowrie said only getting one game of rehab wasn't a big deal because he didn't miss much time. Lowrie was placed on the DL on May 11 (retroactive to May 10) after fouling a ball that broke through his shin guard and left a baseball-sized welt on his shin that pooled down to his ankle in what he described as a kaleidoscope of colors, including "some yellows and some blues and some purples and some greens."

"I have a new shin guard," Lowrie added.

Lowrie, who was hitting .302 with 17 RBIs in 32 games prior to the injury, said he's fired up to get back on the field.

"During the season, it's all about competing," Lowrie said. "When you do miss a little bit of time, you're ready to go."

The A's seem to feel the same way. The return of Lowrie will take the team's total of players on the DL from 13 down to 12, and with the anticipated return of catcher Josh Phegley coming soon, they'll get even more good news.

"As far as the psychology goes, we've been subtracting," Melvin said. "Now we're on the verge of having a couple of additions. That will certainly be welcomed."

Doug Miller is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.