OAKLAND -- Dustin Fowler is still waiting for his first big league at-bat.
The outfielder only made it to the on-deck circle last June 29, his big league debut as a Yankee scarred by a horrific freak injury.
The scene at Guaranteed Rate Field was grim. Fowler crashed into the wall in right-field foul territory while chasing down a fly ball, nearly tumbling headfirst into the stands while his right knee slammed into an exposed, unpadded metal electrical box. Carried off the field on a stretcher, he was taken by ambulance and soon learned he would require season-ending surgery following a rupture in the patella tendon.
Fowler was included in a package deal for pitcher Sonny Gray one month later. Now, he's in a good position to be the A's Opening Day center fielder.
And while the Baby Bombers are booming in New York, Fowler sees a similar group on the rise across the country.
"I think it's a great group here," Fowler said Friday, speaking from an A's media event on the eve of their FanFest. "I can compare it to the group we had in New York. A lot of these guys were drafted together, they've come up together and played well together. It's a great thing. We had a great thing there, so having all these guys that know how to play with each other is huge. I'm excited to get going and learn how to play with them."
Fowler said he anticipates playing in Spring Training games by Feb. 26, giving him ample time to be ready for the regular season.
"I'm probably at 85 percent," he said. "They're happy with where I am, I'm happy, so hopefully nothing comes up between now and then. I think everything is strong enough to be able to do everything. It's just getting that last little strength back in the leg, last little girth. That's that last little bit to get the speed back to where it was."
Speed is an important part of Fowler's game, so it will naturally be the biggest thing to watch when he returns to the field. He's been hitting, throwing and running for more than a month.
The A's allowed Fowler to spend the majority of his offseason in his small hometown of Cadwell, Ga., ensuring they wrote out a proper rehab plan that could be monitored by a trainer there. He returned to Arizona to continue work with the A's medical staff two weeks ago.
"I'm so ready to get back and play games again," Fowler said. "It's been long enough. I keep looking forward to seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I'm getting to the point where I'm pretty much healthy, but it's not quite there. I want to get there now instead of in a month. I'm happy with how I've handled everything, though. I didn't get really that down or frustrated. Obviously I had my days, but for the most part I'm happy with how I handled it and the way it's gone."
Fowler, who sued the White Sox and the ballpark's management in December, citing negligence, was considered the Yankees' best defensive outfield prospect at the time of the trade.
The A's have longed for one of those for quite some time, and a healthy Fowler gives them just that.
"I have a job to win," he said. "There's always someone trying to take your job. I think that's the biggest curiosity for me, is not quite knowing where I'm going to be or stand yet. I'm just going to compete and do everything I can to win a spot and stay healthy at the same time. I'm very happy with being here. There's a lot better opportunity here and I'm happy to get going."