A's Reddick heats up at the plate

Published: Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Friday, Aug. 16, 2013 - 7:24 am

OAKLAND – The day before Josh Reddick hit three home runs against the Blue Jays in Toronto, the A's right fielder cut his hair into what he later termed a "seventh-grade comb-over," got a massage and spent a good chunk of time at the team hotel's spa.

The massage, Reddick said, "helped get some knots out that were building up." And the spa day was "a great rejuvenation for me." The haircut, part of a superstitious attempt to kick-start the scuffling A's, Reddick did himself – "I don't let anybody touch my hair," he said, with the exception of his maternal grandmother, a hairstylist.

Whether any of those things affected his swing, Reddick, who awoke in Toronto last Thursday batting .203 with five home runs, smacked five homers in his next two games while driving in eight runs. In five games before Wednesday's 2-1 loss to the Astros in 11 innings, he was 7 for 17 with nine RBIs and eight runs scored and had reached base in 12 of 22 plate appearances.

More likely, Reddick said, the power explosion was a case of "perfect timing in a great ballpark where the ball flies."

The A's, though, wouldn't mind some of that power returning to the United States over the next month and a half.

After leading the A's in home runs (32) and RBIs (85) in 2012, Reddick has spent most of the year mired in a slump that had him hitting .215 with 10 homers and 46 RBIs before Wednesday's game – not the encore the 26-year-old had in mind to a breakout season that included his winning a Gold Glove.

A nagging wrist injury hampered Reddick early and led to him spending 22 games on the disabled list in May. He now says he probably should have gone to the DL right after hurting the wrist April 7, rather than struggling through the rest of a month that saw him hit .139, but even after returning May 31 he felt himself "waiting for something to click."

"The confidence wasn't always there this year," Reddick said. "There were times I'd go to the plate thinking, 'What's going to happen now?' Right now I'm just saying nothing in my head – there's no little voice in my shoulder. And that's what I've got to do. When I'm not thinking, that's when I'm at my best."

There's likely a little more to it. While Reddick says "cage work isn't my thing" and tries not to tweak his swing too much during the season, he credited hitting coach Chili Davis with a drill that shortens his swing path to the ball. With Davis tossing him pitches, Reddick stands close enough to a net that if he extends his arms too much, his bat will hit the net rather than the ball.

"That's when he gets in trouble," Davis said. "He sees the ball well. He'll be on a curveball, and then the length of his swing – it's not like he's trying to do a whole lot with it, but the swing makes it look that way. If he can go right from where his (hands are) to the ball, he's going to drive the ball."

Davis said Reddick's swing was noticeably shorter in Toronto and he seemed to have found a comfort level. Reddick hit third in the first two games against the Astros – where he was a regular in 2012 but has made just 11 starts this year – with manager Bob Melvin saying the A's "want to ride a confident streak he has going right now."

It probably helped, said teammate Brandon Moss, that balls Reddick hit hard in Toronto found either open space or the seats. Moss said Reddick has "had to deal with a lot of unluckiness" this year, and he has a point.

Reddick has walked more often – 11.3 percent of his plate appearances, according to the analytics website FanGraphs – and struck out less often (19 percent) than last season. But his batting average on balls in play of .238 ranked the sixth-lowest of any player with at least 300 plate appearances as of Wednesday.

"That just means you're unlucky," Moss said. "You go through years like that. And I think he's been one of the best I've seen about not letting it affect the rest of his game.

"It says he's mentally tough," Moss continued. "He's not going to be a baby about it. Obviously, it's frustrating and it sucks not to have the year offensively that you want to have. But he understands his value to his team is more than just getting a few hits, and he's done a great job of that."

Call The Bee's Matt Kawahara, (916) 321-1015. Read his Bay Area Baseball blog at blogs.sacbee.com/bay-area-baseball/. Follow him on Twitter @matthewkawahara.

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