PHOENIX -- A's third baseman Josh Donaldson took Oakland infield coach Mike Gallego aside the other day to voice his concerns about the angle he's been taking on slow grounders hit his way.
"He's not afraid to ask questions, and he thought the approach he was taking was making him fall offline as he was throwing,'' Gallego said. "He wasn't satisfied with his angle and felt he could make a stronger throw.''
The answer was for Donaldson to keep his shoulders over the ball more to get better spin and more accuracy on his throws to first base.
And that's how it is these days for Josh Donaldson, the baddest of the Bad News Bears -- learning on the fly.
When the 2012 season ended in the playoffs, Oakland had an outfielder playing first base, a shortstop playing second base, a catcher playing third base and four rookies in the starting rotation. Walter Matthau's bunch didn't have anything on these guys.
Donaldson was the catcher-turned-third baseman. And as he comes back for a second season at what is still something of a foreign position, the question arises: Was last year a fluke?
The A's don't think so. Manager Bob Melvin has Donaldson penciled in as the starter at third, to be sure, but the A's also went out and traded for Jed Lowrie, a shortstop who could play third if needed. And Scott Sizemore, whose injury last spring led to Donaldson's ascension from behind the plate, is healthy, too, and he could be pulled from the second
Sizemore's ACL injury on day one last spring sent the A's scrambling for options. They didn't have another true third baseman they wanted on the roster, so they turned to Donaldson, a catcher who had spent perhaps a month playing third base in winter ball in the Dominican.
The move was hardly an immediate success. Donaldson wound up getting sent down a couple of times, but by season's end he was a threat offensively and defensively as the A's surged to the American League West title.
His goal now is to make sure his travels to the minor league need not be repeated.
"I used the time in Triple-A to regroup,'' said Donaldson, who hit .290 in the final month and a half after his final recall, lifting his average from .153 to .241. "I managed to work it out.''
That six weeks, as good as it was with 11 doubles, eight homers and 26 RBIs in 47 games, is at best a partial résumé. The same is true for his strong defense down the stretch, which is why he's still asking question of Gallego on an almost daily basis.
"When a pitcher makes a pitch, I want to be able to make a play,'' Donaldson said in describing his defensive philosophy. "I had a little experience in the Dominican playing at third, but I'd always been a catcher. So from day one here this spring, I'm back working and trying to learn the position.''
The question Donaldson doesn't ask is this: Will he continue to own third base?
Gallego, who played second, third and short in his 13 seasons in the big leagues, is the one serving as Donaldson's Yoda. They'll work before or after practice, as necessary, and get in plenty of time during practices, too, to make sure the answer to that question is "Yes.''
"This is still a new position to him, it's not natural to him,'' Gallego said. "so he's out here working on his footwork, on his positioning and on seeing the ball off the bat. The good thing is he has great athletic ability, and he doesn't take shortcuts. He's out here working hard to get better; nobody works harder.''
After Young was sent to get a look by the medics, the initial diagnosis of a quad cramp stood. He's not going to play Monday, but he was scheduled off anyway and should be good to go Tuesday.
"It was a nice play and a nice at-bat for him,'' Melvin said. "He should be fine.''
Young was long gone by the time the A's closed out the win over the Angels on a sunny but cold and windy day. The game lasted 3:44, and most of the crowd of 5,213 was elsewhere by the time this one ended.
For more details on the A's 7-5 Cactus League win over the Angels on Sunday: www.mercurynews.com/athletics