A's welcome underdog status despite being division champs
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PHOENIX – A’s infield coach Mike Gallego has only talked to shortstop Addison Russell briefly this spring, but he’s got an idea of what it will be like working with Oakland’s top prospect.
“The obvious thing is the ceiling this kid has, the athleticism. But what a student,” Gallego said. “He’s very alert, very aware, very absorbent as far as information is concerned. That makes the job of a coach that much easier.”
Much attention will be given to how Russell progresses with the bat as he moves through the minor league ranks. But he also plays one of the most demanding defensive positions on the diamond.
He’s worked hard on his defense. When the A’s drafted Russell out of high school in the first round in 2012, there was belief among scouts that he might have to eventually shift from shortstop to third base. But Russell has shown the athleticsm, hands and arm strength for shortstop. That’s one reason he’s generally regarded as one of the top 10 prospects in the minors entering this season.
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“I just want to keep working on my feet, just do my routine,” Russell said.
Gallego said Russell can benefit by working alongside veteran middle infielders Jed Lowrie, Nick Punto and Eric Sogard while he’s in major league camp. Gallego also wants Russell to work on taking an explosive first step on a grounder and “using his eyes better.”
“Getting better reads off the bat, seeing the ball, getting better at seeing the first hop and reacting to that,” Gallego said. “By using your eyes, what happens is, when you see ball well, you slow the ball down.”