Gelof finding his groove and mechanics: HR in 3 straight games

June 21st, 2024

OAKLAND -- The A’s were excited about their future with as a potential franchise cornerstone after an electrifying display throughout his dazzling 2023 rookie campaign. They were also aware of the likely adjustments coming his way from pitchers as a sophomore player.

Sure enough, Gelof got off to a slow start. His average sat at .196 on April 23. Then he landed on the injured list with an oblique strain that caused him to miss 19 games. Upon returning from the IL, the struggles continued. But the A’s never gave up on Gelof, allowing him to fight through those scuffles at the plate with everyday playing time.

“I’m definitely lucky to be in this situation,” Gelof said. “For my teammates and the staff to believe in me, it’s huge. It’s awesome. It means a lot to me. There’s nothing else I can do but just go out there and take advantage of it.”

That patience by the A’s is starting to pay off. Gelof homered for a third consecutive game on Thursday, slugging a game-tying two-run shot off Royals starter Seth Lugo in the seventh inning. The 422-foot blast to straightaway center was not enough, as Oakland fell one win short of a sweep in a 3-2 loss to Kansas City at the Oakland Coliseum. For Gelof and the A’s, his power surge is an encouraging signal that his season might finally be turning around.

“He’s come a long way,” manager Mark Kotsay said of Gelof. “He continues to work. He continues to believe in the processes we’ve started with him in making the change to his swing. He’s starting to see the results, and that’s a great sign for a young player to have dealt with the adversity and the failure of the start of the year to continue to just work.”

When the A’s began a three-game road series at Tampa Bay on May 28, Gelof’s batting average had dipped to .185. Director of hitting Darren Bush worked with the second baseman on some mechanical adjustments to his swing. The main tweak was getting him back to attacking the zone with a better directional swing, as he did so consistently last season. On Thursday, his 105.9 mph homer and 103.6 mph single both went to center field, where most of his hits go when he’s at his best.

“I feel like I’m just consistent with my load,” Gelof said. “I’m on time, which helps with everything. I’m just trying to swing at good pitches.”

Despite the continued lack of results in the batter’s box following the adjustments, Gelof bought in and stuck to the plan. The numbers still are not where he’d like them to be, though his 2-for-4 effort on Thursday did push his batting average over the Mendoza Line to .202 for the first time since April 17.

“You lose a little confidence in the trust of your process,” Gelof said. “Not necessarily my talent, but what I’m doing behind the scenes and if it’s conducive to success or not. You have to look back at what you’re doing. Now, I just believe in what I do so that when I go out there, I’m just competing.”

On the heels of a winless seven-game road trip, the A’s returned home and kicked off a six-game homestand by taking two of three from a playoff-contending Royals club. More importantly, the series showed positive development in their young players.

In addition to Gelof, rookie Mitch Spence struck out a career-high seven batters as he allowed two runs in six innings. Since joining the rotation on May 17, Spence holds a 3.58 ERA through his first seven Major League starts. There were also some growing pains, including a critical mistake on the basepaths in the eighth when rookie Max Schuemann led off with a walk and was later picked off at first base with JJ Bleday at the plate.

“It was a great series for us,” Kotsay said. “Coming off a road trip where we didn’t win a game, coming back home and winning a series with an opportunity to sweep a team, those are signs we put behind a tough road trip and moved forward. We gave away an out on the bases today that could be costly, and those are the little things and the details to the game that we continue to talk about and teach.”