PHOENIX (AP) — Brett Anderson called it "pure athleticism at its finest."
The fact that he could make light of what could have been a serious situation for the Oakland A's was a bit of good news in a 7-5 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Sunday.
Anderson, picked by manager Bob Melvin to start on opening day, was just eight pitches into his second start of the spring when trouble arose.
He had given up a leadoff single to Adam Eaton, then watched as a sharp grounder by former Oakland teammate Cliff Pennington caromed off the glove of third baseman Josh Donaldson and rolled toward the back of the infield.
Eaton slowed momentarily, then tried to take an extra base when he noticed no one was covering third. Anderson hustled over to the bag, but the throw was a bit behind him, the ball got loose and Eaton was safe.
Anderson walked back toward the mound, twisting his neck back and forth. Melvin and team trainers came out and the left-hander was pulled from the game without attempting to make a practice throw.
The diagnosis was a strained muscle on the right side of his upper deck. Anderson, attached to an electronic stimulation device while sitting in front of his locker, called it a freak play and said he didn't think it was anything serious. More evaluation will come on Monday.
"It's a lot looser than it was when I was out there," Anderson said. "The ball was thrown behind me, I turned and my neck balled up, started to spasm."
He agreed with Melvin's decision to pull him.
"You don't want to overcompensate and hurt something else," Anderson said.
Said Melvin: "You never want to take a chance. But we are fairly confident that he will be able to make his next start."
Oakland overcame an early 2-0 deficit with two runs in the second inning and two more in the third, and pulled away.
Infielder Jed Lowrie, acquired Feb. 4 in a trade with Houston, provided much of the offense with a two-run homer and an RBI double.
Lowrie appears to be competing with Jemile Weeks for the second-base job. Weeks was hitting well before being sidelined with a bruised shoulder. Melvin said Weeks will get in some at-bats at the A's nearby minor-league camp on Monday before going back into the regular lineup.
"Lowrie has a couple of good at-bats every day. It doesn't seem to matter if it's a right-hander or left-hander, he swings every well," Melvin said.
Diamondbacks left-hander Tyler Skaggs, vying with lefty Patrick Corbin and righty Randall Delgado to become the fifth starter, again was inconsistent. He gave up four earned runs on four hits, walked two and gave up the homer to Lowrie. His spring ERA is 12.79.
"Numbers mean nothing in spring training, it's all about how you feel, what coaches see," the 21-year-old Skaggs said. "It was basically a confidence-builder and today just added to the confidence I have out there."
NOTES: RHP Ian Kennedy, Arizona's opening day starter, pitched what amounted to five innings in a "B'' game at the team's facility in nearby Scottsdale. He gave up one hit over four innings and struck out three, although he was given an extra out each inning. ... A's OF Yoenis Cespedes will be in Florida for another day or two to greet 14 family members, including his mother, who left Cuba with him two years ago but have been delayed coming to America until now. ... When Arizona's Venezuelan players return from the World Baseball Classic, manager Kirk Gibson said that Martin Prado will be used strictly at 3B after playing LF in the WBC. ... The A's optioned LHP Andrew Werner and RHP Jesse Chavez to Triple-A Sacramento and RHP Michael Ynoa to Class A Beloit.