Back on upswing, 'everything feels right' for Reddick
A's outfielder works through early-season slump just in time for return to Boston
BOSTON -- It's been several years since Josh Reddick was the rookie in the corner.
That was in a veteran-laden Red Sox clubhouse, where the scrawny outfielder simply tried to blend in and "be the shadow to all those guys," he said.
Reddick's 2011 trade from Boston to the A's altered the course of his career. With 32 home runs, 85 RBIs and a Gold Glove to his name the next year, Reddick was suddenly a bona fide middle-of-the-order power hitter with a cannon of an arm to boot.
Then 2013 happened. A bum right wrist sidelined Reddick for parts of a forgettable season, and he again found himself in the shadows on most days, this time on an American League West-winning A's club. His home run total shrunk by 20, and he finished the year batting seventh, sometimes eighth -- and hitting .226.
Now Reddick is preparing to face his old Boston mates in a three-game set at Fenway Park this weekend.
"I was just telling my agent how good it feels to be healthy again," Reddick said this week. "I had forgotten what that felt like. It feels great. I feel amazing at the plate, and everything feels right confidence-wise of where I need to be. My body feels better than ever. I can't ask for anything more right now."
Oakland's right fielder entered Thursday's off-day batting a modest .241. This is nothing to write home about for most players, but considering Reddick began the year just 4-for-41, following it up with 16 hits in his next 42 at-bats, it kind of is -- especially since it took a call home for it to even happen.
Kenny Reddick knows his son's swing better than anyone.
"My hips were flying way too early, so my hands were dragging," he said. "He picked it out right away. I went into the cage the next three days and just swung, not even moving my hips, letting my hands work and teaching myself to not even use them at that point."
Just weeks before, Reddick was swinging one of the hottest bats in Spring Training. He finished the Cactus League campaign at .333 with three home runs. In the first week of the regular season, which brought about two washed-out games at the Coliseum, he had just three hits.
Reddick was starting off right where he finished 2013.
"That was the most frustrating thing about it," he said. "Coming off the surgery, that was the type of spring I really needed to have, and then the season starts and I'm going, 'What happened?' A week ago, I was hitting everything on the barrel and now I can't even hit the ball.
"It was weird how it happened so fast, and my only guess was the lack of batting practice we were able to take. I'm not a cage rat, so I rely on that batting practice. Even when we have our cage days now, I make sure I'm being thrown to, rather than just tee and flip."
Reddick spent an hour with A's hitting coach Chili Davis after a matinee game in Minnesota on April 9. This was right after he was approached by a reporter about the possibility of being optioned to Triple-A Sacramento upon Craig Gentry's impending return from the disabled list.
This was news to Reddick.
"It wasn't in my mind until I heard about it," he said. "I worried about it for one day."
Reddick just so happened to strike out four times that day. After the game, manager Bob Melvin told him, "I've heard all these rumors about you being sent down. Don't worry about that. That's not happening."
"They made it pretty clear that I wasn't going down, and I knew deep down that I was going to come out of it," Reddick said. "I was just tired of waiting, and I'm sure they were, too."
Reddick wanted to be left alone that day. But Davis wasn't letting that happen.
Five days later, Oakland went to Anaheim. Reddick, as expected, was still around, after the A's had designated Sam Fuld for assignment when Gentry returned. He went 0-for-5 in the series, yet it was also the turning point, he believes. Reddick was seeing pitches, working counts. He drew two walks in one game and didn't need to even hit the ball to know he was on to something.
Now Reddick is spraying the ball all over the field. He has 20 hits through 25 games. Last year, Reddick needed 34 games to reach that mark.
"Maybe I should take a picture of where I'm at right now and keep reminding myself of that," he said, smiling.
"He's just more relaxed," Melvin said. "Really just getting off to a tough start after having a good spring and being healthy was difficult on him, and he just needed to get some good games under his belt to relax. He's getting some good swings. Three or four times a night, he's having good at-bats."
Reddick, 27, insists that's more important than his average, though he still isn't content batting seventh most nights.
"I want to get back to being the predominant three-hole hitter on this team I know I can be, carrying this team like I know I can," he said. "But I know it's something I have to earn back. [Josh Donaldson] has done a heck of a job there. I wouldn't say I'm comfortable I'm in the seven-, eight-hole, but I'm not going to be upset if I'm in there right now. Maybe I can get back to being the five- or six-hole guy. Not just sometimes, but all the time.
"We're still winning games, and that's all I care about."