PHOENIX—When righthander Shawn Haviland left Harvard with a degree in governmental studies, he knew he still had a thing or two left to learn.
His lessons continued courtesy of two coaches whose education came on the diamond, not the ivy-covered halls.
"I can't even spell Hah-vahd," laughed Athletics minor league pitching coordinator Gil Patterson, who along with Don Schulze, last year's pitching coach at high Class A Stockton, worked to refine Haviland's delivery.
"He threw well across his body," Patterson said. "We kept him on a better line to home plate."
Haviland said the mechanical tweaks made it easier to repeat his delivery and throw his fastball with improved control.
A 33rd-round pick in 2008, Haviland threw in the mid-80s when he signed. The improved mechanics helped nudge his fastball up to an average of 90 mph, topping out at 92. The increased velocity has helped the 25-year-old become a complete pitcher whom Patterson considers a legitimate prospect.
"He can locate his fastball, and it's got life and movement," Patterson said. "He's got a good change, a very good curveball. He's intelligent and has all the attributes you want.
"He's going to be one of those guys who keeps grinding it, from level to level, then one of these days he'll be in the big leagues from about (age) 26 to 36."
Pitching for Stockton last year, Haviland went 9-6, 3.65 and struck out a California League-leading 9.9 batters per nine innings. This season, he and Shulze will move on to Double-A Midland.
The A's praise Haviland's intense work ethic. He spent the last two offseasons toiling at Cressey Performance, a highly demanding training program based near Boston. "A lot of it has to do with the strength program and the nutritional aspects," Haviland said.
He has changed the way he eats, limiting his pasta intake and replacing it with regular doses of spaghetti squash. He even blogged about spaghetti squash, including his favorite recipe.
• Signed to a minor league deal, speedy outfielder Jai Miller played well early in spring training, thus positioning himself as a possible early callup. The 26-year-old could serve in a reserve role or as a pinch-runner.
• The A's rewarded minor leaguer pitchers Neil Wagner, Lance Sewell and brothers Jared and Josh Lansford for their early arrival to camp by carrying them as depth at early spring training games.