PHOENIX -- There are divergent ways to look at the number of games outfielder Yoenis Cespedes played in his rookie season with Oakland.
You could look at the 129 games he played and focus on the 33 that he missed, including a stint on the disabled list in May with a strained left hand and a stretch in June when he missed nine of 10 games with a strained left hamstring.
Or you could look at the 129 games he played as 39 more than he'd ever played in a season. In 2010 he played in 90 games for Granma in Cuba, just before he decided to defect and take his chances in North America.
A's manager Bob Melvin just smiles when he looks at the 23 homers, 82 RBIs and .292 batting average Cespedes produced in those 129 contests.
"That just shows how tough a kid and how focused he is," Melvin said. "He had to deal with acclimating to a new country and a different brand of baseball and concerns about his family and his future. And he had to deal with being hurt most of the last two months of the season, playing through pain because we were in the race.
"He's very driven. It's one of his major attributes. You could see it from the minute he got here."
That was perhaps most evident when Cespedes left the Sept. 13 game with a sprained right wrist. Well aware that Oakland needed him, Cespedes was back in the lineup the next day. He hit a two-run homer in the fourth inning to give the A's a 2-1 lead in what would wind up a 3-2 win.
The A's went 12-7 in the final 19 games with Cespedes playing in all of them. He averaged .319, hit five homers and drove in 14 runs, all with a wrist that was crying out for some rest.
That level of focus may become the signature of the man who figures to be the Oakland cleanup hitter this season and for years to come. Once he chose baseball over track and field -- he was a high jumper -- it was all baseball, all the time.
He got his first baseball glove when he was 9. For the next three years, he alternated between the high jump and baseball until he put away his track spikes to settle on a career in baseball cleats.
"It got to the point where I just decided I liked baseball better," Cespedes said through interpreter Ariel Prieto. "I thought I could be good at both, but I just liked playing baseball better."
He liked baseball to the exclusion of almost everything else. When he wasn't in school, he was playing baseball, almost sunup to sundown.
"From the time when I'd wake up, the first thing I'd do was play," he said, "play until it got dark. Every chance. Even when I was in school, we had 30 minutes for lunch. I'd play baseball rather than have lunch. That's how much I liked it."
His desire to be on the field hasn't slacked. He objects to the thought of being more than an occasional designated hitter. And when spring training games are over, he cranks up some of his favorite Cuban rhythms on the music system in the clubhouse and goes through a grueling workout in the weight room that can last a couple of hours.
Where does that drive come from? Cespedes says no mentors have pushed him to be the hard-charger he is.
"It all comes from inside," he said. "It's just me. It's who I am and how I play the game. I've always had that drive."
Melvin is a believer.
"You don't see that in everybody," the manager said. "But you see it in everything he does. That's what separates him."
If the A's separate themselves from the rest of the AL West as they hope this year, Cespedes' drive may prove to be the driving force.
For Davis, that was no problem.
"The beauty of what I see with our hitters that I didn't see last spring," Davis said, "is that while there's a sense of urgency, they're not in any rush."
Davis went on to explain that he sees his hitters as having a clear idea of what they need to do to get back to their rhythms of the second half of 2012, when Oakland had one of the more dangerous lineups in baseball.
"They want to get there," he said. "But they don't feel the need to get there now. They want to get there by opening day. They have time to work on things now. I like that."
Seth Smith hits a single and a home run off the scoreboard. www.mercurynews.com/Athletics