Things haven’t changed for Milone, even though they have

A's left-handed starter Tommy Milone wants to prove himself worthy of starting berth

A’s left-handed starter Tommy Milone wants to prove himself worthy of starting berth

Ask Tommy Milone, and he’ll tell you nothing has changed.

Ask Bob Melvin, and he’ll say nothing has change for Milone.

That’s true, to a point. But with the A’s having definitely lost starter A.J. Griffin from the opening day roster and very likely soon to get similar news about the man who was to have been the likely opening day starter in Jarrod Parker, everything has changed.

Milone was looking at being the sixth man in a five-man rotation, stuck behind Parker, Griffin, Sonny Gray, Scott Kazmir and Dan Straily. Now he could be the fourth man in the rotation.

It depends on how he does the final few weeks of the spring. From possibly being on the outside looking in no matter what, he’s in a position to grab a starting job just by pitching his best.

In his first game since things changed Friday, Milone faced the San Francisco Giants and threw five scoreless innings, giving up three hits and two walks. He struck out two and was never in serious trouble.

“I don’t think things have changed,’’ Milone said. “I still have to go out there, pitch well and give them a reason to put me in the rotation.’’

Melvin said pretty much the same thing.

“For me, he’s always been in the mix,’’ Melvin said. “He’s always been a competitor for the rotation. He knows what he has to do. He doesn’t need more motivation knowing that something’s given to him.’’

Milone, a left-hander who has won 25 games the last two seasons, had been all but nudged out of the rotation by the emergence of Gray and Straily and the off-season acquisition of Kazmir.

When he faced the Giants Saturday, he didn’t think much about that, he said. What he thought about was establishing his two-seam fastball, a ball that has more sink to it than his other pitches.

The Giants couldn’t figure it out.

“That’s definitely by far the most I’ve used it,’’ Milone said. “I felt good today, putting up zeroes. That’s easily the best game for me all spring.’’

Melvin, who is a big Milone fan and who likes the way the lefty competes, offered this:

“We had him down to throw 65 pitches today and he threw 65 in five innings,’’ the manager said. “We’d take 65 pitches in five innings any time of the year. He had real good command of his breaking ball.’’

And if he retains it, Milone has an excellent chance to start the season in the rotation and reestablish his Major League credentials starting from Day 1.

John Hickey

A longtime baseball writer three years into in his second go-round covering to the Oakland A's beat after a dozen years covering the Seattle Mariners. Covered the A's through the late 1980s and 1990s.