This Memorial Day, Oakland A's gold glove outfielder Josh Reddick returned to the Cal League for the first time since 2008 when he was a member of the Lancaster Jethawks. Reddick suited up for the Stockton Ports as a first step in his path towards returning to the Oakland A's active roster.
Reddick, who was widely considered one the biggest All-Star snubs at the halfway point last season, quickly became a fan favorite after being traded to Oakland from Boston in the deal that sent Andrew Bailey to Beantown. Reddick quickly rose to be one of the most promising young outfielders in the game, slugging a team-best 32 homeruns and starring on the defensive side, routinely making spectacular and acrobatic catches in right field. Reddick did slump offensively towards the end of the year as more and more teams adopted a shift against him and he admittedly lost his timing as the season came to a close.
Entering the 2013 season, Reddick had high expectations for a bounceback campaign after his late season slide. He worked extensively with A's hitting coach, Chili Davis, on his swing mechanics during the spring.
However, during Oakland's first roadtrip of the season in Houston, Reddick attempted to make a highlight reel grab in foul territory, but wound up smashing against the wall padding, which forced him to exit the game with a wrist injury. Reddick, who previously had surgery on his other wrist while in Boston, appeared to escape serious injury and remained on the active roster for the next several weeks. But the native Georgian began to slump noticeably and his swing continued to be hindered by the sore wrist, which prompted the A's to place him on the disabled list to allow the wrist to heal fully.
On Monday, Reddick, donning the number 23, took to the field with Stockton, batting second in the Ports' lineup behind Addison Russell. In his first plate appearance, he would groundout softly to third base, and he missed beating the thrown by 1.5 steps. In his second at-bat, he hit an infield pop-up just behind second base. In his final plate appearance of the evening, Reddick finally got on-base with a decently struck line drive single to right. No fly balls were hit to him in right field and he cleanly fielded two groundballs.
After the game, Reddick was optimistic about his wrist.
"It feels good," Reddick said of his wrist. "No pain, no issues in the wrist. Really happy to get back out there, but the biggest thing is that feeling comfortable, get my timing back and make sure there's no pain and I don't feel anything off in the wrist."
As for the remainder of his rehab assignment, Reddick is headed out to Sacramento to suit up for the River Cats. Reddick doesn't have an exact agenda for when he will return to the A's roster.
"Played one [In Stockton] and hopefully I'm up to play three in Sacramento and playing DH [tonight] and then the outfield the next day," Reddick said. "But we don't really have set goal right now. We just want to make sure I'm comfortable with my at-bats and that the timing is there before I go back up and press anymore."
The A's have held their own in Reddick's absence. After a slow start in May, the A's have won four-in-a-row and nine-of-10 to pull within three games of the first-place Texas Rangers. Reddick sees the A's remaining a factor in the AL West all season.
"We feel like we can contend," Josh said of the state of the 2013 A's. "We're a great contending team and we have no doubt in ourselves to compete in the AL West anymore. We're just keeping the whole ‘one game at a time' theory and these guys are doing a great job even without me in the lineup right now so that's a positive sign. Hopefully when I come back up I can catch a ride on the train and jump along with those guys."
Reddick was one of the most extreme pull hitters in baseball last season, hitting 19 of his 29 doubles, four of his five triples, 26 of his 32 homers, and 72 of his overall 148 base hits last year to right field. Reddick has adjusted his approach for 2013.
"Before the injury, I felt like I was taking a lot of great swings but just wasn't getting results for it," Reddick said. "Always feel like I've been a guy that can hit the ball to all fields, but maybe last year I got a little too homer happy, and hence the pull happy situation. I'm just trying to go with more pitches and trying to recognize and not hit so many home runs."
Entering this season, Reddick also received attention for his facial hair flair, growing a beard on par with Brain Wilson's infamous beard during the 2010 postseason. But before the A's series in Tampa, Josh trimmed his now massive beard down in an attempt to break his slump. On Monday he hinted that the beard very well might make a comeback.
"Well, I was struggling at the time as everybody knows and I was hoping the trim would help turn things around," Reddick said. "Unfortunately that wasn't the case, but on the positive side the beard can grow back in four months so I have a feeling it'll be back before the end of the season is over."
Reddick ideally is aiming to return in time for the series opener versus Chicago on Friday in Oakland, but he will be evaluated after each rehab game to see how his wrist is responding. Reddick was placed on the DL on May 8, so he can return to the active roster at any time.