SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -Justin Duchscherer hopes he will be the same standout pitcher he used to be, without all the personal baggage.
He appears headed in the right direction.
``Nothing is holding me back,' he said.
Duchscherer pitched six shutout innings, Kurt Suzuki hit a two-run homer, doubled and singled, and the Oakland Athletics beat the San Francisco Giants 9-0 on Thursday night in both teams' first game back from spring training in the Arizona desert.
Duchscherer was slowed early this spring by a nerve problem in his back, but looked strong this time out - and declared himself ready to start the season. He allowed three hits, struck out one and walked two in an impressive 84-pitch performance.
The right-hander and two-time All-Star missed all of the 2009 season following elbow surgery and later a bout with clinical depression. He acknowledges he will be nervous when he first takes the mound again next week.
``That was definitely a good positive game to build on to go into the season,' Duchscherer said. ``The only problem I had a little was with the cold weather. In that last inning, the longer I'm out there the colder I'm getting. With that cold it's hard to get a feel on the ball.'
The goal was for Duchscherer to throw between 80 and 90 pitches so he will be ready for 90-105 in his first start next week. His curveball was working to keep the Giants off balance.
He believes he's ready to take that next step in his comeback to the majors. Mentally, he's back to a healthy point, too, after his struggles last year.
Of being back in a big league ballpark, he said it felt ``awesome.'
``It's been a long time,' Duchscherer said. ``Last year I went through a lot of stuff off the field and there was one point I thought I might never play again. For me, I'm proud of myself for getting through what I had to get through and getting back out there. The last few years I've kind of been numbed out. I wasn't really enjoying the moment. Going to the All-Star game in New York, it was kind of a blur and I didn't really cherish while I was in it. Some of the things I've dealt with in my personal life have allowed me to come to the field with a different positive attitude and to cherish it while I'm here. I really appreciate the opportunity to be in the game now.'
Manager Bob Geren said as long as the right-hander did fine in this outing he would be on schedule to pitch in the first week, though what day was still to be determined.
``Justin was great. That was just a superb outing,' Geren said. ``He was in command of all of his pitches. His pitch count was low, very efficient in everything he did. I thought his command was about as good as you can get. Outstanding.'
New A's third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff doubled, hit a pair of RBI singles and scored, and leadoff man Coco Crisp doubled twice, drove in two runs and scored for Oakland - winless in its previous five spring games.
The A's pounded the Giants for 17 hits.
``It's always good to get on the board first and allow the starting pitcher to have a little bit of a relaxed time out there,' Crisp said. ``If we can put up enough runs we stand a good chance of shocking some people in the division.'
The A's jumped on Giants left-hander Barry Zito right away. Zito, the 2002 AL Cy Young Award winner while with Oakland, went winless in six spring outings. He was tagged for five runs and seven hits in three innings and needed 36 pitches to get through a rocky third.
``I felt good all spring. Today was just throw it away,' Zito said. ``My timing was off tonight. Just the timing and the delivery, a couple of things I'm going to clean up before the next start.'
This was the first of three games this weekend in the preseason Bay Bridge Series between the cross-bay rivals, who returned home to Northern California late Wednesday.
The Giants play right up through Sunday - at home versus the Mariners - before flying to Houston for Monday's season opener against the Astros. Yet most of San Francisco's regulars will be off Sunday.
Nate Schierholtz went 0 for 2 with a strikeout for the Giants. Manager Bruce Bochy used almost an opening day lineup, though he's still not sure whether Schierholtz or John Bowker will start in right field.
NOTES: Giants 2B Freddy Sanchez, recovering from a late December procedure on his non-throwing left shoulder, is still 3-4 weeks from beginning a rehab outing with Triple-A Fresno. ... Suzuki was batting .170 on the spring coming into the game.
The Associated Press News Service
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