BOSTON -- Josh Reddick has his hitting stroke back on track, and the timing couldn't be more perfect with the A's beginning a three-game series against the Boston Red Sox on Friday night at Fenway Park.
Reddick, Oakland's right fielder, began his career with the Red Sox, and he used the A's off-day on Thursday to drop by the old neighborhood, where Boston and Tampa Bay were engaged in a day-night doubleheader because of a rainout on Wednesday.
Reddick, who came to the A's before the 2012 season in a trade for reliever Andrew Bailey, is on a roll right now. He's 16 for 42 (.381 average) with three three-hit games over that 13-game stretch. It follows a 4 for 41 start to the season.
Reddick, who belted 32 homers in 2012 but had only 12 last year when a season-long wrist injury diminished his power, has just one homer in 2014, but he and batting coach Chili Davis seem unconcerned. Reddick knows that as long as he can drive through the ball, the homers will come.
For Reddick, his best swing starts with his legs and brain. He says he needs to keep his legs from dancing too much in the batter's box. And he needs to keep his brain from thinking that he needs to hit the baseball from Fenway to Martha's Vineyard.
"I'm getting to the place where I use tunnel vision when I'm at the plate," Reddick said. "As long as I'm not thinking that I have to hit home runs, I'm OK. I've learned that I don't have to hit the ball 500 feet, and that if I just drive the ball, the home runs will come."
As for the dancing feet, Reddick said he's had a longtime problem with his legs "being too jumpy" when he's batting.
"It's all a part of trying to hit the baseball too far," he said. "When I'm jumpy, I know that I overstride. When that happens, I'm trying to hit the ball too far."
And too often that means he doesn't hit the ball at all. It was a bit of a problem in the first two weeks of the season when his .098 batting average was grinding at him. But consistent work in the batting cage with Davis calmed both the legs and the brain, then back-to-back three-hit games against the Astros to open Oakland's last homestand served notice that his swing was still there. Five of his last 12 starts have seen him deliver multiple hits.
"I like his swing now more than I did in spring training," Davis said. "In the spring he was trying to adjust his stroke to keep it short. Now he's gotten to the point where he understands how it feels to repeat the stroke each at-bat. He understands his swing."
And while he's never going to walk 80 times in a season, Reddick has bought into the A's general offensive philosophy of looking at pitches selectively and not just lashing out at the first pitch that seems close.
He points to his three-hit game Monday against the Rangers in Arlington. He had four at-bats, looked at 15 pitches, tripled once and singled twice.
"I'm never going to walk as much as Josh (Donaldson) or Jed (Lowrie), but that's OK," Reddick said. "But I'm looking at more pitches now."
Many of the pitches he'll see this weekend will come from Clay Buchholz, who starts Friday for Boston, and John Lackey, who gets the call from the Red Sox on Sunday. Buchholz and Lackey are the two players on the Red Sox roster he's closest to.
"I hung out more with the pitchers than the outfielders when I was here," Reddick said. "Those are the guys I'll go looking to hang with a bit."
That being said, leaving the Red Sox, for whom he was a part-time player from 2009-11 (a cumulative 375 at-bats in those three seasons) opened up the big leagues to Reddick.
"The trade was the best thing that ever happened to me," he said. "No way was I guaranteed to start in Boston. I've come here and gotten a chance to play every day."
And he's hitting again. What better time to return to the nest?
After a rough 2013 season and a similar start to this season, Josh Reddick has shown signs of heating up at the plate over the past two weeks. Here are his numbers to start the 2014 season compared with the 13 games since April 18.
Date range G AB R H HR RBI BB SO AVG
March 31-April 17 12 41 4 4 0 1 5 15 .098
April 18-Present 13 42 7 16 1 8 3 7 .381
Season 25 83 11 20 1 9 8 22 .241