PHOENIX -- There's always something about Josh Reddick that creates a buzz, and not just because the A's right fielder looks a little like a tumbleweed with muscles.
The Oakland surge in 2012 from 13 games out of first place to winning the American League West had much to do with Reddick, who led the team with 32 home runs and 85 RBIs.
If the A's are going to repeat as A.L. West champions, they will need the same kind or even a better effort from Reddick, who went from being an afterthought in Boston to a star in Oakland. Along the way, being in the Bay Area with a young team helped set Reddick's personality free -- as did playing alongside free-spirited outfielder/D.H. Jonny Gomes.
Gomes has moved on as a free agent to the Red Sox, but Reddick remains and has every hope of expanding the cool clubhouse vibe that Gomes helped set in motion last season. When Reddick walked into the A's clubhouse Friday morning with a long, scraggly beard and flowing locks, it led one of his teammates to hail him as "Hillbilly Jesus."
"I don't see the chemistry here changing a whole lot," Reddick said after putting on the green and gold for the first time this spring. "There are valuable guys who are gone, but we've got a whole lot of guys who were here, who knew what it was like and who can keep it going."
One of those is Reddick himself.
"If what it takes to have that feeling again this year is for me to be more of a team leader, then that's what I'll do," he said. "We're all stoked to start here again."
It was suggested to hitting coach Chili Davis that when Reddick's persona shines, his game shines, too. Davis nodded immediately.
"That's how it is with Josh," Davis said. "There are going to be times when he comes off to some as not the team player you want, but he is. He very much is that team player. He's disappointed in himself when he doesn't help the team."
Davis looked back to an at-bat last Sept. 26 when the A's were in Texas playing the defending A.L. West champion Rangers. Reddick struck out with a man in scoring position against Roy Oswalt, then went up the runway behind the dugout and vented.
Meanwhile, catcher Derek Norris went to the plate and delivered the RBI that Reddick didn't, crushing a triple that knocked Oswalt out of the game.
"I told him that even though he'd failed, Dino (Norris) had picked him up," Davis said. "We'd gotten the run. I suggested he go out and congratulate Norris for picking him up, and he did. And you could see immediately he was feeling better about things.
"He'd been in a slump, but the next day he went out and hit a couple of homers. This game is weird. The more you struggle, the more you fight. He learned a lesson that day. It was a lesson it took me a long time to learn."
Reddick may never be a leader in the clubhouse the way Gomes was. But Reddick made it clear he's not going to let all the good chemistry that built up in 2012 dissipate this season.
Manager Bob Melvin says he's not looking for Reddick to do what Gomes did, but he would be delighted to see him succeed in the clubhouse role.
"They aren't the same kind of personalities," Melvin said of Gomes and Reddick, "but Josh has a lot of leadership qualities for a young guy. He prides himself in that."
Now that his mentor isn't around, it may be Reddick's turn to shine.