PHOENIX (AP) - Oakland Athletics manager Bob Melvin joked before the game that he'd love to see Yoenis Cespedes hit three homers, steal three bases and rob a hitter of a home run in center field in his first major league game Saturday.
He gladly settled for what the Cuban defector delivered - a solo homer and an RBI single - in Oakland's 6-3 win over the Cincinnati Reds.
What impressed Melvin more than those two big hits, however, was Cespedes' patience in his first big league at-bat, when the swift center fielder didn't take a single swing while drawing a walk off right-hander Johnny Cueto.
``This is the day we were waiting for,' Melvin said. ``There was a pretty bright spotlight on him today, so for him to be able to go up there and take a walk his first at-bat, I think impressed me as much as the other at_bats.
``Certainly, they got better and better as they went along: a bullet up the middle and then with two strikes fouled off some pitches and then finally got one he could handle and hit it out,' Melvin said. ``So, I would think he's going to go home tonight with a smile on his face, feeling pretty good about his first day.'
``I feel great, Cespedes said with former A's pitcher and fellow Cuban native Ariel Prieto interpreting for him. ``The results I had today make me feel good.'
The 26-year-old slugger had spent his first week in the A's camp acclimating himself both on and off the diamond before getting his first taste of big league pitching.
Cespedes walked on six pitches in his first at-bat. He came out swinging his second time up, singling up the middle to drive in Josh Donaldson from third. In the fourth, he crushed a fastball over the left field wall off lefty Jeff Francis after fouling off several off-speed pitches, putting Oakland ahead 6-1.
Cueto (1-1), the Reds opening-day starter, allowed three runs and five hits - two earned - in two innings.
``Today was one of those days I was feeling too strong. I was trying to throw the same speed but my arm felt so good I was overthrowing,' Cueto said. ``I didn't think about any names. I just wanted to get this guy out.'
Bartolo Colon (1-0) pitched four innings, allowing one run on four hits in his second spring start. He struck out four.
Cespedes said he didn't swing his first time up because ``I wanted to try to recognize pitches.' He wanted to be aggressive in his second at-bat with runners in scoring position and his third time up he got to strut his stuff.
``You could see him telling himself stay back, stay back, and then he didn't miss the heater,' Melvin said. ``I really think that the first (at-bat) was as impressive in that a guy that really wanted to go up there and hit and show what he has took a walk. So, all the way around all his at_bats were good today. And he looked comfortable in center field. This isn't an easy center field with the sun right behind us.'
Cespedes even crouched a bit and one-handed a high flyball to end the fourth.
``He looks to have some flair,' Melvin agreed. ``For what seems to be a very serious guy he showed a little bit more of a lighter side out in the field as he got more comfortable and the game went on.'
The A's wanted to ease Cespedes into the lineup after his arrival last Sunday, and they've had Prieto hanging out with him to help him adjust to his new surroundings.
``He seems to be acclimating very well all the way around at a pretty quick pace,' Melvin said.
There was a buzz at Phoenix Municipal Stadium with the 6,644 fans and even players on both teams eager to see Cespedes' debut. Pitchers who weren't throwing and position players who weren't in the lineup and weren't required to stay for the game packed the dugout anyway.
``We had a full boat in here and we don't play the Reds' in the regular season, Melvin said.
Cincinnati manager Dusty Baker was curious about Cespedes, too.
``I talked to a couple Cuban friends in Miami they said he was a pretty good ballplayer,' Baker said. ``I'm surprised the A's signed him. I thought they didn't have any money.'
Yes, the signing of Cespedes to a $36 million, four-year contract, the highest ever for a Cuban defector, is a real splash for a low-budget franchise that surprisingly outbid some big-spending clubs for the slugging outfielder who starred for Cuba in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, where he hit .458 with two home runs and five RBIs in six games.
That was about all the A's had to go on before Saturday's game. All his YouTube videos were impressive, as were his BP sessions.
But this was his first big test.
``He was great,' teammate Jemile Weeks said. ``That's how you're supposed to come onto the scene.'
The Athletics expect he'll only get more and more comfortable now.
``You want to get all those firsts out of the way, your first game, your first hit,' Melvin said. ``And it gets you that much closer to your teammates, too, when you're productive and you have something to shake hands in the dugout about.
``It's easier to feel good about what you're doing and fit it when you have a game like that.'
NOTES: Cespedes will DH Sunday against Kansas City and hit third. ... Manny Ramirez, went 0 for 3 in his return to the lineup after missing a few days because of lower back stiffness. He reached on two errors.
Follow AP Sports Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton
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