Zito impresses as A's beat Brewers split squad 5-2

PHOENIX — Barry Zito, attempting a comeback after a year off from baseball, threw four scoreless innings for a save as the A's beat a Milwaukee Brewers split squad 5-2 on Sunday.

Ryan Braun, who had offseason thumb surgery, went 0 for 3 with two strikeouts for the Brewers. Braun, who missed the previous three games with the flu, is 0 for 10 with four strikeouts in Cactus League play.

In his second appearance of the spring, the 36-year-old Zito allowed just one hit and retired 11 of the 12 hitters he faced. The 2002 AL Cy Young Award winner struck out Bobby Crocker looking to end the game and received a standing ovation from A's fans at Maryvale Baseball Park as he walked off the field.

“You can look at results but I have to look at the way the ball is coming out of my hand,” Zito said. “Right now it feels good.”

Zito knows scouts from many teams are watching his progress this spring. The A's have plenty of competition for their starting spots.

“I don't think about things like that,” he said. “I have an agent. I just need to stay in the moment and give my all for the team every time out.”

Jonathan Lucroy homered for Milwaukee in his second spring training game and caught five innings. Brewers opening-day starter Kyle Lohse allowed two hits in 4 1-3 innings, striking out three.

Last spring, Braun started 8 for 9 (.875) with three home runs, but it didn't carry over to the regular season. He had his worst year in the majors, hitting .266 with 19 home runs and 81 RBIs.

“Physically, I'm in a good place. I'm still working to get my timing and rhythm a little bit,” Braun said. “I've had some good at-bats and some not so good at-bats. But for me the spring is about the process, not the results.

“Last year I started 8 for 9 with three homers and I had my worst year. And in 2012 I had my best year and I started out like this, 0-for-something. All of us would rather have success than not, but spring training stats really don't matter.”

Billy Burns improved his batting average to .441 with two hits for the A's.

Sonny Gray, a 14-game-winner last year and the projected opening-day starter, struck out Gerardo Parra and Braun in the first but allowed six hits over the next two innings. Gray limited the damage to one run in each inning, leaving runners on second and third each time.

“This was night and day better than the last time,” said Gray, who gave up five hits and two runs in 2 1-3 innings against Arizona on Tuesday. “I felt awesome. It was great to be able to get out of the second and limit the damage.

“I was ready to go back out there for the fifth inning, but we decided against it.”

All three of the hitters who struck out against Lohse went down looking.

“I'm out there having fun. (Lucroy) calls a great game and I just throw to the glove,” said Lohse, who threw 59 pitches in the game and a few more on the side. “I feel good. I've been hitting my spots and I've been really consistent and I just don't worry about the other stuff.”

NOTES: Oakland is hoping OF Coco Crisp (right elbow) will be able to return to the lineup Tuesday when the A's play San Diego in Mesa. 1B Ike Davis (back) could also be ready then or soon after. … Lucroy's first hit of the spring was a home run down the left-field line. He also reached on an error in the fifth before coming out and said he had no problems with the hamstring injury that cost him four weeks. “He left a changeup up in the zone. I hit it off the end of the bat and it barely got out, but I'll take it,” Lucroy said. “I haven't really tested (the hamstring) on the bases but the chance hasn't come up yet.” …The Brewers reduced their spring training roster to 49 players, returning catcher Parker Berberet to minor league camp. The team also signed C Tyler LaTorre and OF Ariel Estades to minor league contracts.

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