This time, finally, it appears Chris Carter is ready.
While 15 games is a mighty small sample size, there is cautious optimism in the A's organization that the quiet, power-hitting first baseman has begun to figure out what it takes to be a major-leaguer.
In his previous stints in Oakland, the top slugging prospect in the system had looked badly overmatched and even a little timid at the plate.
But since being recalled from Triple-A Sacramento last month, a new-and-improved Carter has performed like a ballplayer ready to fulfill his enormous potential after years of piling up eye-catching power numbers in the minors.
"It's great to be able to feel good about yourself and have a little success instead of just pressing all the time," said Carter, who burst onto the scene with five home runs and nine RBIs in his first nine games back in Oakland.
It all comes down to confidence, believes A's manager Bob Melvin.
"Something has to be the difference," he said. "It's not like Chris is hitting left-handed or doing things completely differently. He's just a confident guy right now, and you're seeing the results. We already knew that the ability was there."
It's easy to see why Carter, 25, who was born in Redwood City and grew up in Las Vegas, would have doubted himself. The shy Carter began his time in the big leagues with an atrocious 0-for-33 slump -- the longest hitless streak to start a career in Oakland history. Heading into this season, his forgettable time with the A's included a .167 batting average and 41 strikeouts in 114 at-bats to go along with three homers and seven RBIs.
But if confidence was Carter's issue, it wasn't due to a lack of it, said Sacramento hitting instructor Greg Sparks.
"He's always been confident almost to a fault where he began to become stubbornness," Sparks said. "He was convinced what he was doing would work at the major-league level. This is a kid who just dominated down here, and he was probably wondering why he shouldn't stay with what had gotten him there in the first place."
Ever since coming to the A's organization from the Arizona Diamondbacks as one of the centerpieces of the big Dan Haren trade in December of 2007, Carter had torn up minor-league pitching.
In 2008, he smacked 39 homers and had 104 RBIs at Single-A Stockton. The next season, Carter combined to hit 28 homers and drive in 114 RBIs to go with a .329 average at Double-A Midland and Triple-A Sacramento. And there were 52 more minor-league homers in 2010 and 2011.
At 6-foot-4 and 245 pounds, Carter seemed tailor-made for the role of big bopper who could anchor the A's lineup.
But the hardest step to navigate is the jump from Triple A to the big leagues. And each time he was called up to Oakland, Carter shrunk in stature.
"I had always hoped to carry over what I did in the minors to here," said Carter, a man of very few words.
But that didn't happen. So, Carter ended up having a long heart-to-heart talk with Sparks and River Cats manager Darren Bush this spring.
"We all made it our goal that when he got the next opportunity up there, it was going to be different," Sparks said. "It wasn't going to end the same way. We bounced around some ideas and agreed on one specific change. Then he had the guts to go out there, work hard, and never deviate even though he struggled here for a while."
That change was slight. Like many big sluggers, Sparks said, Carter had an over-reliance on his upper body. So they focused on getting him to use his legs more -- adding some flex in his knees to make him less robotic at the plate. That made Carter less susceptible to pitches tailing away to the outside of the strike zone.
"It's a small adjustment that's turned out to be something big for him," Sparks said. "He's covering the whole plate now. He has cut down on the strikeouts and has begun using the entire field."
Now, Carter platoons at first base with Brandon Moss. A's hitting instructor Chili Davis said Carter's body language at the plate now says, "I can hit these guys."
He even compares Carter's swing to Detroit's Miguel Cabrera.
"What we were trying to do in spring training was raise his aggressiveness," Davis said. "It's so easy (for him.) He just swings, and boom! He can miss a ball and still hit it out of here. He's like Cabrera."
The goal now is proving he can do it for the long haul.
"The biggest adjustment is the mental part of it," said Carter, who is hitting .279 with six home runs and 12 RBIs after hitting a solo shot and driving in three runs in the A's 16-0 rout over the Toronto Blue Jays on Wednesday. "It's still the same game, but everything is so much bigger. But this is the first time where I've really been able to deal with all that."
Joe Stiglich contributed to this report. Contact Mark Emmons at 408-920-5745.