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Wendle excels after being thrust into leadoff role

Oakland's rookie 2B has worked hard on all facets of game
MLB.com @JaneMLB

ARLINGTON -- When Oakland pulled the trigger on a Brandon Moss trade and reeled in Joey Wendle from Cleveland nearly two years ago, the whispers ran rampant: Wendle's offense was considered well ahead of his defense. The young infielder got word and went to work to quiet them.

"I had always taken a lot of pride in my defense, so that was something I kind of wanted to prove wrong," Wendle said. "My goal is always to be a balanced baseball player, someone they can rely on both offensively and defensively."

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ARLINGTON -- When Oakland pulled the trigger on a Brandon Moss trade and reeled in Joey Wendle from Cleveland nearly two years ago, the whispers ran rampant: Wendle's offense was considered well ahead of his defense. The young infielder got word and went to work to quiet them.

"I had always taken a lot of pride in my defense, so that was something I kind of wanted to prove wrong," Wendle said. "My goal is always to be a balanced baseball player, someone they can rely on both offensively and defensively."

Full Game Coverage

Wendle has shined on both sides of the ball since earning his first promotion to the big leagues on Aug. 31, impressing with every move, be it with his range in the field or his smartness at the plate, where he's been thrust into the leadoff spot of late for the first time in his professional career.

For the second time in as many days Sunday, Wendle reached base on the first pitch of the game, bunting for a single. On Saturday, he homered in the same situation, sparking a club that had been gutted by a walk-off loss the night before, later producing a sacrifice fly that was just as telling of his abilities.

"The last thing you want to do is roll over a ball and keep it in the infield," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "He stayed inside it and got it in the air in center and it ended up knocking in another run. He's a pretty smart guy, and he thinks pretty calmly for a guy that's new to the big league level.

"If you look at his overall body of work in the Minor Leagues, you wouldn't say he's a prototypical leadoff guy, but he's done a great job for us. He's taken some pitches, he's getting hits, he's getting on base, and certainly that home run yesterday after a tough loss the night before energized the dugout."

Wendle's production has subsequently eased Melvin's decision-making process when writing out a Coco Crisp-less lineup every day. In his seven starts in the leadoff hole, Wendle is 14-for-34, having quickly tailored his at-bats to the position.

Defensively, Wendle is just as aggressive, noting, "If I'm going to make a mistake, it's going to be on the aggressive side."

And Melvin says he's "covered as much ground at second base as anyone I've seen since I've been here."

The rookie has a quick first step and is smooth with his hands, making the routine plays with ease and the difficult ones look easy.

Video: OAK@KC: Wendle starts a 4-6-3 double play in the 1st

Wendle, 26, will try his hand at third base soon, with plans to play the hot corner for Yaquis de Obregon in his first winter ball stint. A position change is not the works; Wendle simply wanted to play, and that's where he found his opportunity.

"These past couple seasons, I haven't been satisfied with how I've started out, and felt like I left a lot to be desired in my play," Wendle said. "So I felt like it would be a good opportunity for me to go and compete at a high level, as well as working with some of the limitations that I had and playing in front of some bigger, rowdier crowds.

"If I wasn't going to get this opportunity to play in the Majors, I thought that would have been a good experience for me. I made a commitment to them earlier this year, and my time up here hasn't changed that."

Said Melvin: "He wants to play. He's taken his opportunity real seriously. He knows that the competition in winter ball and all that goes on there, it's not like you go to winter ball just to work on things. You better produce or they send you home there."

Jane Lee has covered the A's for MLB.com since 2010. Follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

Oakland Athletics, Joey Wendle