That’s a little bit of a heavy workload for this time in the spring, but get used to seeing him in the lineup. The A’s are counting on the 25-year-old to be a huge part of the heart of their order.
“He can hit,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “We saw that last year. Coming to camp with a lot of confidence knowing this year he was going to be a big part of the offense, hitting in the middle of the order, he seems to be taking it to another level.”
Healy, a 2013 third-round pick out of Oregon, was so good after his mid-July promotion that the A’s moved Danny Valencia off his third base spot to plug in Healy. Over 269 at-bats, he hit .305 with 13 home runs and 37 RBIs. Had his promotion come a month or two sooner, he may have found his way into the Rookie of the Year conversation.
Healy won’t find himself at third as much this season. The A’s traded Valencia to Seattle, but also signed veteran Trevor Plouffe in the off-season to man that spot. They love the leadership and personality Plouffe’s brought to the clubhouse.
That means Healy’s now an authentic member of the A’s – someone they’ll rely on to play multiple positions. He’ll serve as their primary designated hitter, while backing up Plouffe at third and Yonder Alonso at first base. It’s a role he says he’s comfortable with.
“It’s something I’ve done my entire minor league career, so it’s not like it’s totally new for me,” Healy said. “I at least have something to reflect back on. I have some experience, even if not at the big league level, so I’m going to use that experience to my advantage this season and hopefully reap the rewards.”
After a 1 for 8 start this spring, Healy’s been mashing recently. Even excluding the home run he hit against Italy’s WBC team last week – those exhibitions aren’t included in the official spring training stats – he recently had a stretch in which he went 6 for 12 with two home runs and six RBIs. He went 0 for 3 on Monday, but two were hard hit balls into the outfield that were tracked.
“It’s nice,” said Healy, who entered play Monday third in the Cactus League with 10 RBIs. “I’m starting to feel a little more comfortable in the box, swinging at better pitches.”
And like Melvin mentioned, the confidence has soared since experiencing the success of his rookie season.
“It definitely gave me a nice platform to learn from and build off of and get better for the off-season and hopefully carry it over into this spring training and this season,” Healy said. “So we’ll see how that transpires for me, but so far, I feel like the body of work that I had last season has made me feel more comfortable mentally and physically for at least spring training so far.”
Aside from one game in the No. 2 spot, Healy has hit third or fourth every game and that’s where he figured to hit in the regular season. Decreasing his strikeouts (he had 60 in his stint last year) and increasing his walks (he had just 12) are keys to continuing his rise, along with learning the best way to handle a D.H. role in the big leagues.
Healy said “staying involved mentally” will be a key, along with using “batting cages and video, whatever is accessible. I’ll talk to some of the older guys and get some advance on that, but I’ll do whatever I can to stay involved.”
By Jimmy Durkin