OAKLAND -- In effort to keep Jake Smolinski's red-hot bat against left-handed pitchers in the lineup, the A's asked him to do something he hasn't done this season on Friday against the Pirates.Smolinski made his first start of the season in center field against Pittsburgh lefty Jeff Locke after playing
OAKLAND -- In effort to keep Jake Smolinski's red-hot bat against left-handed pitchers in the lineup, the A's asked him to do something he hasn't done this season on Friday against the Pirates.
Smolinski made his first start of the season in center field against Pittsburgh lefty Jeff Locke after playing both corner outfield positions in his first 25 games. He hasn't spent much time in center with the A's even in pregame warmups, but wasn't concerned with any adjustment, saying he's worked in center while playing for Triple-A Nashville this season.
"I'm just trying to maintain the same approach every day," Smolinski said.
Smolinski went 1-for-4, and is now hitting .328, in Friday's 7-3 loss to the Pirates.
A's manager Bob Melvin said Smolinski's Triple-A defensive metrics even graded out as a "slight plus" over more than 20 games.
"It's always a little bit different in the big leagues, but he's played enough to where we feel comfortable about running him out there and we feel comfortable with him playing the position," Melvin said.
Smolinski's hitting .429 in 28 at-bats against lefties this year, including his pinch-hit three-run home run off Giants reliever Javier Lopez to give Oakland a 9-8 lead Monday. He posted a .400/.442/.700 slash line over 40 at-bats in June, establishing himself as a viable platoon option in the outfield.
"The way he's swinging the bat, especially against left-handed pitching, we had to find a way to get him in there," Melvin said.
Melvin also had an additional bench player at his disposal Friday, as Oakland recalled Tyler Ladendorf from Triple-A and optioned lefty Dillon Overton, who started Thursday against the Giants. Melvin expects to give Ladendorf a start Sunday.
It's the infielder's third stint with the A's this year. His most recent spanned from May 10 to June 17, when he went .087 (2-for-23) at the plate while appearing mainly as a utility infielder. He hit .344 in nine games with Triple-A Nashville since being sent down.
Melvin noted Ladendorf was "as comfortable as we've seen" prior to being optioned last month.
"Certainly when you get a guy back from Triple-A who is playing most every day, they're comfortable at the plate, so we'll need to get him in the game as soon as possible and that will probably be the day game Sunday," he said.
Mark Chiarelli is a reporter for MLB.com based in Oakland.