OAKLAND -- Jeff Larish barely rates a footnote in A's history. The infielder played 24 games for Oakland in 2010, hit .175 and was granted free agency.

Larish's greater contribution to the A's was indirect -- he may be largely responsible for Brandon Moss being their first baseman. That's the way Moss feels about it, maintaining he owes Larish a major debt of gratitude. Perhaps the A's do, too.

Moss and Larish crossed paths in 2011, when both played Triple-A ball for the International League's Lehigh Valley IronPigs in the Philadelphia Phillies' chain. They became good friends, and with Moss eligible for minor league free agency at the end of that year, he was considering his options.

"Larish told me, 'Dude, you really should look at Oakland, because they won't care about your batting average and strikeouts so much as you just making an impact,' " Moss said. "So when I declared for free agency, I called them and found out there was mutual interest."

Obviously, the A's didn't know what they had in Moss when he was signed to a minor league deal Dec. 1, 2011, particularly with a player who had logged only scanty experience at first base during 10 seasons in pro ball.

But things have turned out well for player and team. Since being called up to Oakland on June 6 of last season, Moss has played roughly a full season in an A's uniform -- 157 games. He's hit 35 home runs with 92 RBIs, has a .267 batting average and a .331 on-base percentage. OK, he's struck out 170 times.


Advertisement

Moss, 29, has delivered the kind of corner offensive production the A's gave predecessor Daric Barton every opportunity to provide and didn't.

Once Moss demonstrated he could play first base competently, the trade-out was an easy call.

Moss still can't believe his good fortune.

"I love it here," he said. "It's the first time in my baseball career I'm in a place where it really feels like home."

That's a far cry from where he was at the end of the 2009 season, when he was so disappointed following a failed 2½-year run with the Pittsburgh Pirates that he contemplated quitting, asking a friend back home in Loganville, Ga., to inquire what he'd have to do to become a fireman. His wife Allison, among others, convinced him to keep pushing.

"The Pirates gave me a great opportunity and I blew it," he said. "I didn't know I'd ever get that kind of chance again."

Then came the 2011 season, when he had a terrific year in Triple-A and acted on Larish's recommendation.

Moss said everything Larish told him about the A's organization has been spot on. The A's haven't tried to make him into something he's not, and they don't harp on him about his batting average or strikeouts, even though after hitting .291 last season, he's at .239 now.

"I don't worry about batting average," he said. "I know myself, and I'm not a .300 hitter. I'm not Albert Pujols. And I'm going to strike out. But I get my walks, too, my OPS numbers are good, and I feel whenever I do hit the ball, I'm going to hit it hard and the odds are high something good is going to happen."

Hitting coach Chili Davis believes Moss could raise his average with just some minor adjustments.

"He could become an even better hitter if he used the whole field more often, and we continue to work on that," Davis said. "And if he only swung 80 percent as hard as he does, he'd be seeing the same power production only with a lot more consistency and fewer strikeouts."

Davis added Moss is very close to finding the stroke he exhibited in the second half last year. Moss has hit half of his 14 home runs in June, his average is climbing, and he is become a solid first baseman by utilizing the tips he received from A's special adviser Phil Garner in spring training.

Without question, it beats putting out fires for a living.

---

K's are OK: Emphasis on production over strikeouts and batting average drew Brandon Moss to Oakland.
Learning on the job: Moss had played little at first base before signing with the A's before last season.