Josh Reddick returns this weekend to where it all started for him in a professional sense, Fenway Park, as the A’s visit the Red Sox for three games.
Actually, Reddick got a jump on the Fenway experience by using the A’s off-day Thursday to drop by as the Red Sox played a day-night doubleheader necessitated by a Wednesday rainout.
Reddick reappearance in Fenway happens just as he seems to be getting his game track back on course. He hit 32 homers for the A’s in 2012, the year after Boston traded him to Oakland in order to get its hands on reliever Andrew Bailey. The 2013 season was a wash thanks to Reddick’s season-long wrist injury, but when he led the A’s in RBIs during spring training, it seemed his bat had resurfaced.
Then he got off to a 4-for-41 start to the season and had A’s fans muttering to themselves on Twitter and blog sites. Since the stumble out of the starting blocks, however, Reddick’s on a 13-game spree in which he’s had three three-hit games and is averaging .381 overall with a .405 on-base percentage.
The homers haven’t come back just yet, but Reddick and batting coach Chili Davis seem utterly unconcerned. Reddick has his stroke back, and the idea is that as long as he can drive through the ball, the homers will come.
For the right fielder, his best swing starts with his legs and his brain. He says he needs to keep his legs from dancing too much in the batter’s box. And he needs to keep his brain from thinking that he needs to hit the baseball from Fenway to Martha’s Vineyard.
“I’m getting to the place where I use tunnel vision when I’m at the plate,’’ Reddick said. “As long as I’m not thinking that I have to hit home runs, I’m OK. I’ve learned that I don’t have to hit the ball 500 feet, and that if I just drive the ball, the home runs will come.’’
As for the dancing feet, Reddick said he’s had a longtime problem with his legs “being too jumpy’’ when he’s batting.
“It’s all a part of trying to hit the baseball too far,’’ he said. “When I’m jumpy, I know that I overstride. When that happens, I’m trying to hit the ball too far.’’
And too often that means he doesn’t hit the ball at all. It was a bit of a problem in the first two weeks of the season when his .098 batting average was grinding at him. But consistent work in the batting cage with Davis calmed both the legs and the brain and back-to-back three-hit games against the Astros to open Oakland’s last homestand served notice that his swing was still there. Five of his last 12 starts have seen him deliver multiple hits.
“I like his swing now more than I did in spring training,’’ Davis said. “In the spring he was trying to adjust his stroke to keep it short. Now he’s gotten to the point where he understands how it feels to repeat the stroke each at-bat. He understands his swing.’’
And while he’s never going to be an 80-walks guy, Reddick has bought into the A’s general offensive philosophy of looking at pitches selectively and not just lashing out at the first pitch that seems close.
He points to his three-hit game Monday against the Rangers in Arlington. He had four at-bats, looked at 15 pitches, tripled once and singled twice.
“I’m never going to walk as much as Josh (Donaldson) or Jed (Lowrie), but that’s OK,’’ Reddick said. “But I’m looking at more pitches now.’’
Many of the pitches he’ll see this weekend will come from Clay Buchholz, who starts Friday for Boston, and John Lackey, who gets the call from the Red Sox Sunday. Buchholz and Lackey are the two players on the Red Sox roster he’s closest to.
“I hung out more with the pitchers than the outfielders when I was here,’’ Reddick said. “Those are the guys I’ll go looking to hang with a bit.’’
That being said, leaving the Red Sox, for whom he was a part-time player from 2009-11 (a cumulative 375 at-bats in those three seasons) opened up the big leagues to Reddick.
“The trade was the best thing that ever happened to me,’’ he said. “No way was I guaranteed to start in Boston. I’ve come here and gotten a chance to play every day.’’
And now he’s hitting again. What better time to return to the nest?