HOUSTON – The A’s temporary plan for center field now involves Josh Reddick seeing time at the position.
Reddick made his first start in center since 2012 on Tuesday night against the Houston Astros, a development that came about, at least in part, because of Yoenis Cespedes’ preference to play left instead of center.
Cespedes started in center Monday night and has occasionally shifted over there during mid-game substitutions. But he made his preference for left field known before batting practice Monday – not to manager Bob Melvin, but to Reddick.
“I think he actually came to me before he went to Bob about it,” Reddick said before Tuesday’s game. “He told me, ‘Hey, I don’t want to play center field anymore.’ … I’m comfortable out there, I don’t mind. So when we got done with batting practice yesterday, Bob told me to be ready today.”
Melvin, in his pregame media session, stressed that Cespedes never approached him about not wanting to play center.
“I don’t know that he said he wasn’t that crazy about it,” Melvin said. “What he suggests is he’s comfortable in left. He’s willing to do anything I’ve asked him, and that’s why he’s played center field. What we’re trying to do in the interim is find out what the best option is without Coco (Crisp) and without (Craig) Gentry. All along, I was gonna try Reddick in center field. Today is that day.”
Through interpreter Ariel Prieto, Cespedes declined comment on the topic with reporters Tuesday, which only added to the convoluted nature of it all.
At any rate, the A’s need to find a temporary solution for center with Gentry on the disabled list for a fractured hand and Crisp sidelined for the time being due to a neck injury. Reddick, a Gold Glover in right in 2012, played lots of center while coming up through Boston’s system.
Truth be told, Reddick is a smoother fielder than Cespedes and takes better routes to the ball. He’s probably a better option in center on a temporary basis. Melvin indicated that rookie Billy Burns is still likely to see time there against left-handed pitchers, though he didn’t guarantee Burns would start there Wednesday against lefty Dallas Keuchel. But it appears Reddick and Burns might platoon in center for the time being.
Reddick didn’t hide his surprise at Cespedes approaching him about the whole issue.
“Once we found out about Gentry, I had a feeling I was going to be the next option for (center),” Reddick said. “I didn’t expect Cespy to come forward with what he did, but I had a feeling it could be possible.”
Cespedes was a center fielder himself while playing professionally in Cuba, and he actually started his A’s career in center in 2012, with Crisp playing left. Eventually the two flip-flopped.
“Maybe he implied to ‘Red’ that he’s more comfortable in left, and he is more comfortable in left,” Melvin said. “It took him a while, too. He was a center fielder and had to transiton to left field. It took him a little while to get comfortable there, and he’s turned himself into one of the better left fielders in the game.”
Brandon Moss started in right field Tuesday, and the fact he’s handled that position well and displayed a strong throwing arm is another reason Melvin said he feels comfortable playing Reddick in center.