OAKLAND – Much of the talk in the A's spring training camp was about the fourth man in the Oakland outfield.
During the winter, the A's traded for Chris Young, a one-time All-Star with Arizona who was added despite the A's having Yoenis Cespedes in left, Coco Crisp in center and Josh Reddick in right.
While the media focused on the A's four outfielders, manager Bob Melvin stressed it was a five-man outfield with Seth Smith. The player didn't get upset about the omissions, believing that between backup duty, injury fill-ins and use as the designated hitter, there would be plenty of time for him in the batter's box.
"I felt all along the at-bats would be there for everyone," Smith said. "There's never any use speculating on what might happen when the season will play out as it plays out."
The A's have the best record in the American League at 12-4. The left-hander has spent much of that time at DH and in left field, and he has been one of the club's best hitters.
"Seth has been a productive player for quite a while now," Melvin said. "He was one of the reasons we did as well as we did last year."
Smith, who has averaged 400 at-bats and 15 homers during the last three seasons with the Colorado Rockies and A's, enters today's series opener against the Tampa Bay Rays with a .447 batting average and seven RBIs while having played in three-quarters of Oakland's games. That's a bit of a change for Smith, who was a .197 hitter last April for Oakland and who didn't really warm up until June and July, when he had 26 of his 52 RBIs.
"I can't really say I'm surprised by the batting average so far," Smith said. "I didn't come in with expectations of a start like this, either for me or for the team. But if you put in all the hard work you should, things then work out sometimes."
Between Smith's hot bat and Cespedes being on the disabled list, Smith likely won't be out of the A's lineup anytime soon. In the past, Melvin might have been forced to find a replacement for Smith against left-handed starting pitching, but the A's aren't scheduled to see left-handers soon. Even if they do, Smith has eight hits in 12 at-bats against left-handers after hitting just .157 against them last season and only .205 for his career.