PHOENIX — For each of his first five major league seasons, Luke Gregerson came to spring training smack dab in the middle of suburbia, surrounded by shopping malls and restaurants.
With the exception of one season (2010), the results during the regular season were the same every year for the right-handed reliever and the San Diego Padres — well below .500.
Then, on Dec. 5, Gregerson faced a significant change. He was traded from the Padres to the Oakland Athletics for infielder-outfielder Seth Smith.
Now Gregerson reports to a ballpark that is the oldest in the Cactus League, overlooked by red-rock buttes and across the street from the Phoenix Zoo, full of exotic animals and birds that sound off every morning.
The A’s have won two AL West titles in a row and have a strong chance to make it three. That would allow him to pitch in the postseason for the first time.
There are a handful of candidates from which A’s manager Bob Melvin can select a setup man for new closer Jim Johnson, but Gregerson could be the primary guy.
Gregerson, who turns 30 in May, has been durable and reliable. He has averaged 72 games during his career and nearly 70 innings per season. He is 17-22 with a 2.88 ERA and 16 saves.
Gregerson threw his second bullpen session of the spring on Tuesday and is optimistic about the progress he is making.
“I have been throwing well. The ball is moving pretty well,” he said. “You’re trying to build endurance. It’s kind of interesting when I think about it — I have pitched in close to half my team’s games every year.
“My time in games is short, hopefully, get in and get out. You also have got to be able to bounce back from a bad outing, bounce back through soreness. There’s a difference between soreness and pain — I have pitched through soreness, but luckily have had no pain.”
Melvin is happy to have another late-inning option.
“I like what I’ve seen,” he said. “I have been on the other side (facing Gregerson), so it’s good to have him here. His track record speaks for itself. We know what we’ve got.”
Asked if his time with the Padres was frustrating, Gregerson said, “A little bit. They did their best to compete, have some great guys over there, but there were times when I didn’t feel that we were going to win. They are certainly capable of turning things around.”
Now he is getting accustomed to new teammates.
“It takes you a while to get to know people. It’s a little different,” he said. “I know I will make new friends. The best thing is that this team has shown it can play, get to the playoffs. I want to be a part of that.”
NOTES: Position players report on Wednesday, with the first full-squad workout on Thursday. “It won’t be much different than it is now because most of the guys are here already,” Melvin said … LHP Joe Savery, claimed off waivers from the Phillies on Monday, is due to take his physical Wednesday and be on the field Thursday … Melvin, a former catcher, said uncertainty surrounding whether home-plate collisions will be allowed limits instruction on how to make such plays. … Asked about his pitchers’ bullpen sessions on Tuesday, Melvin joked, “They all looked horrible. It was embarrassing.”