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Okajima relishes return to American mound


PHOENIX -- This wasn't his first rodeo, but in some ways it felt like it for Hideki Okajima.

The 37-year-old veteran reliever, making his unofficial A's debut against the Indians on Monday, stepped into American game action for the first time since May 2011, when he was wearing a Red Sox uniform.

Okajima issued a leadoff walk to Cleveland's Jason Giambi and later gave up a double to Cord Phelps, but he escaped his one inning of work unscathed and deemed it "a good outing" through his translator.

"Even though I'm a veteran, it's been awhile since I've been on an American mound, so I was a little bit nervous, but it turned out OK," said Okajima, signed by the A's this month to a Minor League deal with a chance to make the big league roster.

It was around this time last year Okajima prepared to join the Yankees, but a failed physical altered those plans, forcing the southpaw to return to his homeland, where "the ball's a little bit smaller, the mound's a little bit softer," he said.

"In that way I have to get used to the American game again," Okajima continued. "The fact that I couldn't throw last year with the Yankees, being able to pitch at all is a positive sign for me. I was afraid that I was never going to throw in America again, so even stepping on the mound is something special."

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