'Electric' Laureano slowly finding his rhythm

May 29th, 2022

OAKLAND -- Slowed by the rust built up from going nine months in between Major League action and a hand injury he sustained shortly after returning from his suspension, Ramón Laureano has struggled to find his rhythm at the plate this season.

A player doesn’t get all the way back with two good games. But for Laureano, his performance over the past two days is a promising sign for the A’s that their exciting outfielder could finally be rounding back into form.

In Oakland’s 11-4 loss to the Rangers on Saturday at the Coliseum, a two-hit day for Laureano was highlighted by his first home run of 2022, as he pounced on a first-pitch sinker left up in the zone from Rangers starter Taylor Hearn in the fifth inning for a solo blast into the left-field bleachers.

Laureano’s homer will get the hype. However, the key to breaking out of the 10-for-55 (.182) slump he entered the day with over his first 18 games may have been discovered on what was an otherwise nondescript flyout to right field in his previous at-bat against Hearn.

After leading off the bottom of the first inning with a strikeout, Laureano went to the plate in the third and made a slight adjustment in the positioning of his hands. That flyout to right was the result, but scalded off the bat at 99 mph, according to Statcast. It was an opposite-field drive that has been common for Laureano when he’s had success in the past.

Sure enough, Laureano only seemed to scorch the ball harder and harder as the game went on. His solo homer in the fifth registered an exit velocity of 108.3 mph and traveled an estimated 397 feet. Coming to the plate again in the seventh, he lined a 104.9 mph single to left, which led to him scoring another run for the A’s later in the inning on a groundout by Elvis Andrus. The homer and single were the second and fifth-hardest-hit balls of the entire game by either team, respectively.

Laureano’s adjustment was noted postgame by A’s bench coach Brad Ausmus, who filled in as manager on Saturday while Mark Kotsay was away from the club to attend his daughter’s graduation in Southern California.

“There was a big difference between his first at-bat and the next few,” Ausmus said of Laureano. “He made a little adjustment after the first at-bat, and it was very noticeable immediately. Not just because he hit the ball hard, but you could see he kind of freed up his swing a little bit. He looked more easy and fluid.”

The A’s know what kind of spark plug Laureano can be when he’s right. Flashes of it also showed up in Friday night’s 8-5 loss to the Rangers, when he ignited a five-run inning for Oakland by driving home its first run on a single and later wreaking havoc on the basepaths by stealing third base and scoring on a wide throw that was rushed by catcher Jonah Heim.

“Plate discipline, I feel very good,” Laureano said after Friday’s loss. “I think it’s just about working on my position at the plate. I haven’t been driving the ball like I want to at all, so I’ve got to find what it is to start driving the ball. Just work behind the scenes to start driving the ball so I can help this team, because I’m not helping like I want to.”

Laureano’s defense remains as good as it's ever been, with his move to right field this season allowing him more of an opportunity to showcase what is considered to be one of the best throwing arms in baseball. Between the game-changing speed shown on the bases Friday and increased driving of the ball Saturday, the outfielder might be well on his way to performing at the high standards he sets for himself.

A scenario in which he gets hot enough to carry the offense for a period of time is certainly nothing his teammates haven’t seen before.

“He’s an electric player. We all know that,” said A’s left-hander Cole Irvin. “Just watching him is a lot of fun, night to night.”