OAKLAND, Calif. — With one monster 462-foot home run, Yoenis Cespedes showed off a power stroke reminiscent of Oakland’s Bash Brothers back in the day.
That swing spoke volumes to those who questioned whether the prized Cuban defector could dominate in the major leagues for the Athletics as he did in his Caribbean homeland.
Cespedes shrugs off his impressive start with a welcoming smile and a vow to be more patient at the plate in order to cut down on a strikeout total – nine through his first five games – that is too high by his standards.
He is determined not to get too high or too low along the way, knowing full well his rookie season with the A’s will have its share of ups and downs.
Cespedes is working furiously to learn two new English words each day under the direction of former A’s pitcher and fellow Cuba native Ariel Prieto, who was called away from his minor league coaching assignment to work with Cespedes as an interpreter and mentor this year. Cespedes also is studying opposing pitchers and trying not to put too much pressure on himself after Oakland outbid the Marlins and others by giving the center fielder $36 million over four years with a chance to start his career in the big leagues – even if he is far from polished at age 26.
His batting practice has become a downright spectacle.
“A good batting practice is a way to know if you’re going to do well that day,” Cespedes said Monday in Spanish. “I need to have more patience. I’m striking out a lot, but I’m working to resolve it. I’m a little bit impatient. I like to swing at the ball. I’m still a little bit anxious at the plate. Playing every day should take care of it.”
Cespedes is flattered by the immense interest in his pregame cuts, swing sessions that quickly began drawing comparisons to former Bay Area sluggers Barry Bonds with the Giants, and ex-Oakland stars Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire.
Even his teammates – not to mention his manager – regularly pause to watch.
“As far as the team goes, no one looks away when he takes batting practice,” Bob Melvin said. “We’ve seen him take batting practice many days and it’s still a nice little show to watch.”
It took all of four games for Cespedes to prove to the A’s they had found a much-needed,
reliable power man for the middle of the order. He homered in Game 2 against Seattle in Tokyo, then added two more against the Mariners as the teams’ series resumed stateside in Oakland last weekend.
Melvin has already watched pitchers change their approach when Cespedes steps in to hit. He was batting .250 with the three homers and seven RBI heading into Tuesday night’s game with Kansas City.
“After his first couple at-bats and the success he had, they started pitching him differently right away,” Melvin said. “He’s made some adjustments. It’s an ongoing battle with anybody as far as longevity and how long you stay in the big leagues and how well you do is the adjustments that you make.”
Cespedes wasted no time gaining the confidence of his teammates, who were thrilled to add an offensive spark after a rather depressing winter in which the low-budget franchise traded away former All-Star pitchers Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez and Andrew Bailey.
“He’s doing a lot better than a lot of people anticipated, and that’s a good thing for us,” A’s first baseman Daric Barton said. “He gets big hits at the right time so far. I think he’ll have a great year and a good career. It will be fun playing with him and picking his brain. He’s a good hitter. He’s a quiet assassin for sure.”