Simmons making an impression on Melvin

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- For the majority of players in camp, Spring Training is all about getting chances and making impressions.

James Simmons is doing just that.

The 26-year-old right-hander, the club's first-round Draft pick in 2007, isn't in Major League camp, but the Minor Leaguer made his second Cactus League appearance in the eighth inning of Tuesday's 9-4 loss to the D-backs at Salt River Fields.

The appearance -- in which he allowed one hit and struck out one -- was earned on Sunday, when he impressed manager Bob Melvin by doing the simplest of things: throwing first-pitch strikes.

"He threw three first-pitch strikes, he got three quick outs. It was pretty impressive to see," Melvin said.

There was a time such words as impressive were frequently used to describe Simmons, a 6-foot-3, 220-pounder who starred at California-Riverside. But a lingering shoulder injury in late 2009 forced him to miss all of 2010. He returned in 2011 but struggled -- posting a 5.48 ERA in 13 games at high Class A Stockton -- and was converted to a reliever.

Simmons has seemed to find a home in the 'pen, going 3-2 with a 2.98 ERA in 39 games last season and earning a promotion to Triple-A Sacramento. That success continued in the Arizona Fall League and, it appears, into Spring Training.

"You impress up here, and a lot of those things [like injuries] go by the wayside, and then your confidence builds on top of that," Melvin said. "He was drafted in the first round for a reason. It means he has some ability."