PHOENIX -- At the tender age of 30, Scott Kazmir has at least four years on any other member of the club's starting staff.
"That's new to me," a smiling Kazmir said on reporting day, "but it's something we're going to have fun with."
The left-hander, who signed a two-year, $22 million deal with the A's in December, has been in Arizona since Sunday, allowing him nearly a full week to get to know his new teammates before Saturday's first workout for pitchers and catchers commences.
Kazmir sounded like a kid readying for his first day of school, despite entering his 10th Major League season. It's that experience which more than qualifies him for veteran status, even though "I still don't feel like the veteran, the old man," he said.
"He wants to be a big part of this rotation, and if that means being a leader, with some of the experiences he's had, so be it," said manager Bob Melvin. "We don't really target any one person as a leader, but we have quite a few, and he certainly could add to that mix."
Melvin is without an ace on his staff, but that doesn't take away from its quality. The A's have a deep rotation without a No. 1 guy, but also realize this could be the year Jarrod Parker and Sonny Gray prove their worth as one.
Kazmir, less than two years removed from pitching in the Independent League, will join them at the front end of the rotation, while A.J. Griffin and Dan Straily enter camp as the leading candidates to secure the back.
Tommy Milone, Drew Pomeranz and Josh Lindblom will all be stretched out as starters and remain in the mix.
Kazmir went 10-9 for Cleveland on a one-year, $1 million deal last year, including 7-5 with a 3.06 ERA in his final 18 starts. Of his 162 strikeouts, 43 came in the final month of the season.
That's when he most resembled the All-Star pitcher who posted a 3.61 ERA in his first five years with the Rays, before injuries and mechanical issues derailed him from the big league path after just one start for the Angels in 2011.
"He started out pretty well and had some bumps in the road, and I think he's better for it," Melvin said of the former first-round Draft pick. "He'll probably tell you that too. The way he ended last season has probably been his best work, and he looks to improve upon that."
"I always feel like I'm kind of going to have a chip on my shoulder from now on, just from everything that kind of went on," Kazmir said. "I'm going to always feel like I have something to prove."
He'll have the chance to do that with an A's team he described as "a confident, laid-back group of guys that went out and got it done and had fun doing it."
"I'm very excited," he said. "I feel like the team got a lot better. I feel like the AL West has really improved all around, so it's going to be a challenge, but at the same time, from what I get so far, we're a real loose team that can go out and have fun."
Setup duo of Cook, Doolittle suffer minor setbacks
PHOENIX -- Oakland relief duo Sean Doolittle and Ryan Cook will be slowed by mild injuries in Spring Training.
Doolittle suffered a right calf strain earlier this week, while Cook is nursing an inflamed right shoulder that could prevent him from throwing for a couple of weeks.
But when asked if there's any concern the right-handed Cook could still be sidelined come Opening Day, manager Bob Melvin said, "At this point, none."
"We've shut him down here recently," Melvin explained Friday, when A's pitchers and catchers reported. "He'll probably be a couple weeks behind guys, but we don't think it's a serious thing. We just want to make sure that he's healthy come Opening Day. He'll be a little bit behind everyone as far as when he gets on the mound again, but he's thrown some bullpens to this point.
"We're just trying to be proactive with this. He feels good now, and everything he's been doing here the last few days, as far as exercises, he's done very well."
Doolittle, meanwhile, injured his calf while running a couple of days ago. The southpaw is likely to be held back from throwing on Saturday, when batterymates gather for their first official workout, but Melvin assured "he shouldn't be long after that."
Like Cook, Doolittle threw six or seven bullpen sessions leading into camp, so playing catch-up shouldn't be much of an issue.
The setup men combined for 136 1/3 innings in their second big league seasons last year, but just 53 2/3 of them were recorded after the All-Star break, as management kept a close eye on their workloads.
"Last year, based on the year before," Melvin said, "we really backed off some of our relievers with the workload, especially the younger guys. That will always be important to us."
The addition of Luke Gregerson, as well as the rapid rise of Dan Otero, will allow the A's to rotate pitchers more freely in the later innings this year, rather than rely solely on Cook and Doolittle to set up the ninth.
Cook compiled a 2.54 ERA and 1.29 WHIP in 71 games in 2013 (67 1/3 innings). Doolittle appeared in 70 (69 innings), sporting a 3.13 ERA with a 0.96 WHIP while averaging 7.8 strikeouts to 1.7 walks per nine innings. Together, they totaled 11 wins and four saves.
• Right-hander Fernando Rodriguez, who underwent Tommy John surgery last spring, has been given the clear to take part in all drills, but is not expected to begin throwing bullpen sessions just yet.
Rodriguez has been playing catch and throwing long toss -- "The ball's flying out of his hand," Melvin said -- and could be thrown into a few simulated games at some point during camp.
"Whether or not he gets into a big league game or not," Melvin said, "I'm not sure at this point."
Rodriguez has yet to pitch in a big league game for the A's since arriving with Jed Lowrie from Houston last February.