PHOENIX -- Milwaukee's biggest offseason acquisition is working on a nice spring with his new team.
Randy Wolf struck out four in three scoreless innings Thursday, but Gabe Gross hit a two-run triple against his former team in the seventh and Michael Taylor added a three-run homer in the eighth to power the Oakland Athletics to a 7-3 win over a Brewers split-squad.Ryan Braun had a two-run homer for Milwaukee.Wolf agreed to a $29.75 million, three-year deal during December's winter meetings and has not allowed a run in five innings this spring. But the left-hander's latest outing was far from perfect. He gave up two singles to Mark Ellis and leadoff walks to begin the second and third innings.Wolf struck out the side in the second after walking Daric Barton to start the inning and got out of trouble in the third, too, despite walking A's starter Dallas Braden."To me, it was a positive spring training outing," Wolf said. "Usually, historically this time at spring training, I'm searching more than I am right now. I feel like I have an idea of how to fix things."Wolf is considered a key to Milwaukee's hopes this season. The Brewers brought Rick Peterson in as pitching coach and signed Wolf and Doug Davis this offseason.Milwaukee went 80-82 last year in large part because of the rotation's major league-worst 5.37 ERA and so far the revamped group of starters has given up six runs in 20 innings. Wolf said the spring numbers are meaningless, but Peterson's philosophy is important."I know that Rick has come in here and his goal is to put an importance on pitching and put the pride back in the pitching staff and really instill that confidence in us," Wolf said. "We can't do anything as a team unless we pitch well."Gross, who was traded from the Brewers to Tampa Bay in 2008, agreed to a deal with Oakland last month. Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez lost Gross' routine fly ball in the sun in the seventh and it dropped for a triple that brought in the go-ahead runs.Braden had a rough start to the game, but lasted three innings and got a raucous cheer from the bench.He was hit by Rickie Weeks' leadoff groundout in the first, then allowed a single to rookie shortstop Alcides Escobar. Braun followed with a drive to deep left-center field and met with Prince Fielder after rounding the bases for a lighter version of their shadow boxing routine.Braun wasn't even supposed to play, but was a late addition to the home roster after experiencing some tightness in his left hamstring that kept him off the traveling split-squad.Braden settled down after that, and walked on a full count in the third against Wolf, drawing loud cheers from Oakland's bench. Braden clearly had no intention of swinging and was standing on the outside edge of the batter's box chalk."I didn't even see him," Wolf joked. "My peripheral vision's not that good."Braden joked he was just looking for a good pitch to hit."We're not allowed to swing, we're not even allowed to think about swinging," he said. "I've been on the other side when you know you have a freebie, and it almost makes it a little tougher when you have no competition."
Wolf's brother, Jim Wolf, worked as first base umpire. Randy Wolf has previously thrown with his brother behind the plate in spring training only. ... Weeks' brother, A's prospect Jemile Weeks, got into the game as a pinch runner in the eighth and scored on Taylor's home run. ... Brewers manager Ken Macha traveled with the split-squad that lost to the Reds 3-1 in Goodyear.