MESA, Ariz. (AP)With hit-robbing catches and 19 assists in less than a season-and-a-half, the defense of Oakland center fielder Ramon Laureano has gained attention.
Laureano led the Oakland Athletics with a .288 batting average last year, although a shin injury that sidelined him for more than a month left him short of becoming a qualifier. He had 24 homers., 67 RBIs, 29 double and 10 outfield assists – along with an AL-high seven errors and 123 strikeouts in 434 at-bats.
”I learned quickly and I made early adjustments on defense and hitting,” Laureano said, speaking in Spanish. ”But there is still room to continue getting better. There was good and some bad in 2019 and what happened happened, and now I’m focused on a new season and helping the team get to the World Series.”
The 25-year-old’s defense gained his most attention. He had three assists in one four-game series against the Boston Red Sox.
Laureano said the opportunity he’s been given to play regularly is a result of hard work and doing little things to help the team. He thinks the A’s are a franchise that always helps its young players develop, which has led to consecutive 97-win seasons and wild-card berths.
”It’s good to see him. He’s got a smile on his face and he’s eager to play baseball,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin said. ”Very rarely do you find a guy who gets to the big leagues and he’s as good as he’s ever going to be. Just knowing how he’s going to be pitched, making adjustments to that, he’s got the ability to be a high-end two-way player. Barring any health issues, getting upwards of 500-some at-bats this year, he’s going to benefit from that, just the experience alone.”
Notes: The A’s clubhouse broke out in loud applause, Melvin said, when he told the team that longtime director of player development Keith Lieppman is going into the franchise’s Hall of Fame. Lieppman, a special adviser to the front office, is in his 50th season with the organization and has been a A’s player, coach and minor league manager. ”I think he’s the most influential guy maybe in Oakland A’s history as far as the development of the players here,” Melvin said. . Melvin said he will be focusing on the second-base competition among Franklin Barreto, Jorge Mateo and Sheldon Neuse, and possibly Tony Kemp.
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