If there was one player in the A’s spring training camp that seemed the least likely to make it onto the Oakland roster in 2013, Daric Barton would have gotten many, if not most, of the votes.
He is a left-handed hitting first baseman with minimal power and he is on a team where Brandon Moss is a one-time outfielder-turned-first base who is left-hand and who has plenty of power. It was Moss who had taken Barton’s job last season.
Yes, the A’s had agreed to salary arbitration with Barton over the winter, but it was, many speculated, simply so that Oakland would be able to trade him if there were interested suitors.
But after hitting .212 and .204 with a combined one homer the last two seasons, Barton was out of favor, and not just in Oakland. The A’s put him on the designated for assignment list and asked waivers on him when they were cutting down the roster at the season’s start. When he wasn’t picked up elsewhere, he re-signed a minor league deal.
And now here he is, back on the Oakland roster, called up from Triple-A Sacramento to take the spot of Josh Reddick, who went on the disabled list today with a damaged right wrist. Barton’s numbers with the River Cats weren’t huge, just .287 with three homers, but he did have 21 RBIs in 29 games, in part because he was hitting .484 with runners in scoring position to go with a .422 on-base percentage.
He walked in his first plate trip Wednesday, then singled with men on second and third to drive in two runs in his second Wednesday.
“I didn’t have any idea something like this was coming,’’ Barton said who walked into the A’s clubhouse and into the starting lineup at first base with Moss going to right field. “I knew the circumstances of when I was here before.
“But this is a fresh start. What I was doing in Sacramento was using a new mindset. It’s all about being positive. If you do, good things will happen.’’
Things weren’t at all positive for Barton the last two years as he lost playing time and this spring as he was on the roster but clearly was an afterthought.
“I turned the page on being negative on Jan. 1,’’ he said. “I don’t think about what happened. And I don’t blame anyone for what happened but myself.’’
There were suggestions that Barton had lost aggressiveness, was unwilling to swing and more than willing to work his way on base with a walk. The numbers he put up in Sacramento suggest that he’s trying not to be that guy.
“My approach is getting walks when I can and hitting the ball hard when I can,’’ he said. “Over time, that will work. I don’t have 20-homer power, but if I can get on base 40 percent of the time, that’s my job.’’
Manager Bob Melvin said his plan is to play Barton at first base against right-handers and have Nate Freiman play against lefties, including Scott Kazmir for the Indians in Thursday’s series finale. Moss, an outfielder until being converted to first base last year, is in right field for the time being.
“We’re lucky to have flexibility,’’ Melvin said. “Barton will play first against right-handers and Brandon will move to the outfield, which he can do easily.’’
Said Moss: “Moving from first base to right field is like riding a bicycle. Moving from right field to first base is like riding a unicycle.’’
We’ll have to see how it plays out, but this is likely a short-term fix for the A’s, who are due to get Chris Young (left quad) off the disabled list in the next week or 10 days, then Coco Crisp (left hamstring) and Reddick (right wrist) after that. Even so, it’s a huge step forward for Barton, who was clearly the odd man out in the organization six weeks ago.
To make the move to get Barton back on the 40-man roster, the A’s had to release Jordan Norberto, a left-handed pitcher who’s been injured (strained left elbow) while pitching for Sacramento and who just began throwing in the last couple of days. The club hopes to be able to resign Norberto, who was picked up from Arizona in the Brad Ziegler trade deadline deal in 2011.
Reddick, for his part, seemed resigned to going on the disabled list Tuesday night. He said even if his wrist, which received shots of xylocaine and cortisone before Tuesday’s game, was only going to keep him out a week, he didn’t want to be taking up a roster spot that could go to someone who was able to play.