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Low whiffs, high OBP equal success for Reddick

Power-hitting days behind him, A's right fielder aims to be more 'complete' at plate

OAKLAND -- Josh Reddick's strikeout numbers are way down, he's putting the ball in play more and, in turn, he's finding his way on base at a career-high rate. This is all part of a plan, he says, to become a more complete hitter.

Even Reddick maintains that he won't enjoy another 30-homer season in his career after posting 32 in 2012, his first season with the A's, despite finally being fully healthy now. Wrist and knee injuries could've excused his lackluster power numbers in his previous two years -- he exited both with 12 home runs -- but he was done waiting around for them to skyrocket again.

Instead, when Reddick returned from his second lengthy disabled-list stint on July 22 to find himself in the seventh and eighth positions of the batting order on most days -- long removed from his time in the middle of the order, with guys like Josh Donaldson and Brandon Moss around -- he brought with him a changed approach.

"I knew that I wasn't going to be that middle-of-the-lineup guy right away, so I just made myself be the guy that got on base for the other guys to drive me in, and it really kind of carried over to this year," Reddick said. "I was telling myself the whole offseason and Spring Training that I was going to try to be a combined player from 2012 and the end of 2014, and it's actually come around to be that way, it seems like."

In other words, Reddick still wanted to flash the power that he showcased in front of his new fanbase in 2012 without compromising his emerging development as an all-around offensive contributor. He hit .299 over his final 55 games upon his return last year, including .404 over a 13-game stretch from July 23 to Aug. 5. A slump ensued, but Reddick responded with an American League Co-Player of the Week performance, earning the honors alongside teammate Sonny Gray after hitting .480 with five multihit games over the final week of the season.

Video: [email protected]: Reddick makes reaching grab to save a run

Reddick, 28, will enter Friday's series opener against the visiting Mariners batting .278 with a .784 OPS, his highest mark since 2011. He's got 15 home runs to go along with 23 doubles and 66 RBIs. Reddick's 121 hits are the fifth most among AL right fielders.

Reddick is equally proud of a less sexy number: 9.78, the number of plate appearances he's averaging per strikeout -- the sixth-best mark in the AL. From 2012-14, that number averaged out at 5.03.

"As much as I would like more power numbers, I'm not going to go home and beat myself up for it, because I can still be a natural 15-20 [home runs per season] guy whether I'm trying to or not," Reddick said. "With that thought process, the average is a lot higher, the strikeouts are down and I've become a better hitter."

Reddick played in 156 games in 2012. With 28 games remaining this season, he knows he won't match that total as a result of sitting against most left-handers. But the A's have been giving Reddick more opportunities against them in recent weeks, and he has 18 hits in his past 59 at-bats for a .305 average versus southpaws dating to June 10.

Reddick hit .120 off lefties to start the season.

"He's one of the toughest to strike out in the league, which means he's a little less apt to try to pull, which keeps him on left-handers a little bit more, whether it's up the middle the other way," manager Bob Melvin said. "When you get some opportunities against them, you get more comfortable with them."

"You look at the first half, I would sporadically face those guys, and how can you have success if you're not seeing those guys consistently?" Reddick said. "That's what makes the struggles so much harder to deal with, when you're not seeing them and you want to get in there and want to succeed, and they expect you to succeed right away."

Reddick, who is hitting .297 off right-handed pitching, wishes his overall numbers against lefties were higher, "but at this point," he said, "all I can do is hope to finish strong, no matter who is on the mound, and that's the focus right now.

"I just wish I wasn't toward the bottom of the lineup," Reddick said. "I wish I would stay at the top of the lineup, but that's the way things go around here. I still feel I'm a middle-of-the-order guy here. It shows when righties are on the mound. I don't see why it would be any different with a lefty on the mound, especially with the success I've had, as of late, against them."

For now, Reddick doesn't want his focus to stray from what he can control.

"I'm not going in there trying to kill the ball every swing," Reddick said. "I'm still driving in runs. That's the main thing for me. And runs scored. So I'm satisfied, because it's going to make me a more complete player and last a lot longer in this game, and if it continues to be like this, hopefully I can be one of the top players in the league at some point."

Jane Lee is a reporter for Read her blog, Major Lee-ague, and follow her on Twitter @JaneMLB.
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