PHOENIX -- Which will it be for Brandon Moss?

One-year wonder or the A's first baseman for the next decade?

Those seem to be the likeliest options for Moss, who came out of nowhere last year to help fashion Oakland into the surprise of the 2012 season.

Over the course of the previous five seasons, Moss bounced through three organizations, sat on the bench or was in the minor leagues. He hit all of 15 home runs in 678 at-bats.

Then he knocks on the A's door, spends two months at Triple-A Sacramento and comes to Oakland in June, where he spends the final four months of the season tormenting American League pitching.

In 265 at-bats he crushed 21 homers and, in a first-base platoon with Chris Carter, gave the A's the kind of production that a playoff team needs. From June on, Moss and Carter combined for 37 homers and 91 RBIs.

The A's traded Carter to Houston in the deal that brought versatile infielder Jed Lowrie, gambling that Moss would be a late-blooming boomer and not a flash in the pan.

The A's don't see a short tenure for Moss or they never would have traded Carter. Contrast that to the Phillies, the team that employed Moss in 2011 and endowed him with all of six at-bats. They thought so little of Moss that they granted him free agency, at which point the A's snapped him up.


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So it was in the middle of the Oakland run to the A.L. West title in 2012 that a member of the Phillies' front office called a friend, A's broadcaster Ray Fosse, to ask the simple question: "What did A's batting coach Chili Davis do to turn Moss around?"

It was an easy question to answer. Davis let Moss be Moss.

"The first time I saw him, he was crushing the ball at Triple-A," Davis said. "I thought this guy's got a huge future. The next time, he had a really long swing. And the next time he was crushing it again. When I found out that we'd signed him, I couldn't believe it."

The first thing Davis did was to tell Moss, "I really like your swing."

Then he had to convince Moss to like it, too. Half a decade of having big league batting coaches trying to turn Moss into spray-to-all-fields guy had wrecked his natural power. Davis said he saw a guy who crowded the plate and could make that work in a powerful way.

"He's got a natural gift the way he's up close on the plate," Davis said. "Most hitters like me, there are two places a pitcher can beat us, on the outside corner and the inside corner. Brandon's cut that in half. He's so close to the plate that only a perfect pitch can beat him on the inside. I just tried to convince him that for him, there really is no outside corner. If it's outside, then it's probably a ball; let it go."

Moss gobbled up the advice.

"Chili is the first batting coach I've had up here that saw me as a pull hitter," Moss said. "The way I stand on the plate, my natural swing is going to get the ball in the air and pull it.

"I spent a lot of time trying to hit the ball the other way and to hit to all fields. But it didn't quite work. Now I'm at a point where I'm relaxed in the batter's box."

Simply put, Moss is a born pull hitter. Most everything he hits will go from right-center to the right field line. And, yes, there will be strikeouts. There were 90 of them in half a season last year. But the 21 homers, .291 average and 52 RBIs more than offset the strikeouts.

Moss will be as important to the A's as any single player if the club is going to repeat its 2012 success. The club has extra outfielders with the addition of Chris Young and a quality backup at second, third and short in Lowrie. With Carter gone, there is no obvious replacement for Moss.

If things go to plan, they won't need one.

"This is the first time I'm in a spring training camp with a team that is going to give me a chance to be the everyday guy," Moss said.

Somewhere, Joe Charboneau's got to be a little envious.