By DON KETCHUM
MESA, Ariz. (AP) Thirty-six years later, the Oakland Athletics are back at HoHoKam Stadium.
After basing at Phoenix Municipal Stadium since 1984, the A’s have returned to their former spring training home for spring training 2015, which started Thursday.
Oakland used the original HoHoKam Park from 1977-79, before it became the longtime spring home of the Cubs. Chicago’s red and blue has been replaced by green and gold.
“It’s phenomenal, terrific for us,” manager Bob Melvin said. “It’s now essentially a new facility.”
The park sat idle for a year while improvements were made. The concourses feature mural-size photos of old A’s greats Catfish Hunter, Rickey Henderson, Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco, Terry Steinbach and even new Arizona general manager Dave Stewart.
Oakland also will work out at nearby Fitch Park.
Left-hander Barry Zito took a mid-morning physical as he rejoins the A’s on a minor league contract. The 36-year-old left-hander, who won the 2002 AL Cy Young Award, left the A’s to sign a $126 million, seven-year contract with San Francisco before the 2007 season, then took 2014 off.
Melvin said he watched Zito throw part of a bullpen session a few days ago. Zito is to get a start early in spring training.
“After that, the innings tend to dry up as time goes along,” said Melvin, who also did not rule out using Zito in relief.
Only Sonny Gray and Scott Kazmir appear certain of rotation spots. Closer Sean Doolittle is sidelined as his partially torn left rotator cuff heals.
Tyler Clippard appears to be the logical choice to close, but Melvin wouldn’t commit.
“I’m not going to say he is our closer, just like I’m not going to say who our opening day starter is,” Melvin said.
Clippard, Washington’s closer in 2012, was acquired from the Nationals last month for shortstop Yuniel Escobar. “I’m excited to come here,” Clippard said. “It’s like I’m going to school for the first time at the age of 30.”
NOTES: Among the position players to report early were OF Coco Crisp, SS Marcus Semien, OF Josh Reddick, DH-1B Billy Butler and 2B Eric Sogard.
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