Grant Green couldn’t find his way to the players’ parking lot at O.Co Coliseum for his first ever major-league home game on Friday. Fitting considering the whirlwind of change happening on and off the field for the Oakland A’s former first-round pick.
Maintaining the same routine that got a player to the big leagues can be tough when he can’t get into the ballpark.
“I had to follow Chavey (Jesse Chavez) over here,” Green said. “But when I get comfortable over here it’s going to be the exact same thing over here I had down in Sacramento.”
Getting comfortable will be a tough task for Green initially, as he will take on a part-time role for the first time in his baseball life. He’ll be half of a platoon at second base with Eric Sogard and get his starts when Oakland faces left-handed starting pitchers.
Green played the first half of the season as Triple-A Sacramento’s every-day second baseman – starting against right- and left-handed pitchers. That regular work gave Green a rhythm and confidence at his new position.
Now he bides his time on Oakland’s bench while roughly two-thirds of major league starters are right-handed while still facing the challenge of learning the unfamiliar position of second base. This is the first full season Green has played there after being drafted as a shortstop and moving around the outfield the last two seasons in the minor leagues.
His inexperience was put on display during his A's debut in Pittsburgh. During his first two starts, he struggled to turn double plays and made a throwing error.
Green had an outstanding June at the plate, hitting .372/.411/.645 with seven home runs, 10 doubles and 21 RBIs for the River Cats. His hot bat likely expedited his major league promotion, but it still caught him by surprise.
“I thought with the way the team here was winning that it would probably just be a September thing. They’ve been playing really well up here so I just figured they didn’t want to mess with anything,” Green said.
“I’m glad I was wrong to be completely honest.”
With just two starts under his belt, Green is still looking for his first major league hit after six plate appearances with four strikeouts.
Oakland has seen mixed results when promoting players to major leagues and giving them part-time roles in recent seasons. Michael Taylor, Sogard and Derek Norris are examples of players who have struggled to adjust to limited at-bats. Last season, Brandon Moss and Chris Carter excelled while sharing first base, combining for 37 home runs in just the last four months of the regular season.
“It helps a lot knowing what your role’s going to be. You can kind of concentrate on that,” Sogard said, who has been a platoon in four seasons for the A’s.
“I think the biggest thing for [Green] to do is not try to do too much and play the game he’s capable of.”
In a part-time role, struggles have a tendency to stick to the ribs for awhile with days between plate appearances. The A’s were in first place before Green arrived, however, and he said it helps knowing that he doesn’t have help dig his club out of a hole.
“Just know that the other guys on the team are going to pick me up if I don’t do well or I don’t succeed,” Green said when asked he plans on dealing with potential cold spells.
“They’re there to pick me up. If I can rely on that and know this team was winning before I got here and can win with me here as well, and just know there are quality guys on this team that hit and play defense.”
In the middle of the race for a second-straight division title, the A’s aren’t likely to wait too long to see if Green can produce in his new role. With the trade deadline approaching at the end of the month, the club’s brass likely has second basemen on their radar, likely a veteran that won’t have to adjust to the rigors of the major leagues.
When asked, manager Bob Melvin showed little sympathy for Green’s new circumstances, mentioning how common it is for young players to move to the majors in part-time capacities.
“I think almost every young player that comes to the big leagues, unless there was some sort of injury that got you there, you have to deal with this," Melvin said. "That’s just part of the big leagues. When you get your opportunity you go out and make more opportunities for yourself. There’s nothing more that needs to be said as far as that goes. [Green] understands that, he knows when he’s going to play. It’s about going out there and getting yourself more opportunities."
For now, Green’s adjustment starts by learning the route to his new home ballpark.