Righthander Cecil Tanner always has had the raw ability: his fastball touches 98 mph and his hammer curve ranks as plus. The problem has been finding the strike zone.
The Athletics took a 23rd-round flier on Tanner last year and began addressing his control issues. The results started coming together during instructional league, where Tanner earned most improved pitcher honors.
"He just became a man," pitching coordinator Gil Patterson said. "He would come into a situation and shut it down."
The 6-foot-6 Tanner calls his time in instructs "a world of difference" when compared with his college days and his brief pro experience.
"(The A's) had me working on a couple of major points—repeating my delivery and pitching to contact," he said. "But the biggest thing was my confidence."
When Tanner had a successful outing, Oakland coaches would emphasize what he did well, building confidence all autumn.
Tanner also strived to repeat his delivery and thus throw more strikes. The 21-year-old also worked his fastball and curve in the strike zone, trying to get batters to hit the ball rather than whiff.
"I've always tried to strike people out before," Tanner said. "But this is a lot more efficient."
Tanner made 15 appearances in the Rookie-level Arizona League last summer, allowing 17 hits and 27 walks in 21 innings, while striking out 26 and allowing 17 runs.
Tanner eschewed the Braves as a 36th-round pick out of high school in 2008 to attend Georgia. He put up a 12.41 ERA in 27 relief appearances as a sophomore, walking 44 in 25 innings, then barely pitched as a junior, walking 10 in seven relief appearances.
"The last two years, my control wasn't there. That's solely my fault," Tanner said. "Toward the end, I started losing confidence in my ability to throw strikes, (but) when I got drafted it was a new start."
• Oakland will hold its first-ever minor league minicamp prior to spring training in an effort to provide more instruction. Pitchers and catchers will report on Feb. 24, and position players will arrive on Feb. 28.
• The A's will play an affiliate game against Triple-A Sacramento on March 31. Oakland travels to Japan to open the season against the Mariners on March 22-29, then returns to play the River Cats.