Reddick rebounds physically, mentally from trying 2013
Oakland right fielder questions decision to delay right wrist surgery until offseason
PHOENIX -- Josh Reddick is painfully honest when reflecting on The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Year that was 2013.
It was the loneliest of times for Oakland's 27-year-old right fielder, normally the brash and boisterous type. Most days he ended up at his locker in the back corner of the A's clubhouse, lost in his thoughts despite the music bouncing off his ears.
Too often he identified with a character in one of his favorite movies, wanting so desperately, like Happy Gilmore, to find his "happy place."
"There's guys picking you up, patting you on the back and all, but nobody's in your own head and nobody knows you better than yourself," Reddick said. "I spent a number of hours at my locker by myself, just thinking, 'What can I possibly do to get back to being the player I know I can be?' And there was just no answer in there."
So he looked for it in video, because that seemed like the prudent thing to do, even though he's a see-the-ball, hit-the-ball kind of guy, which made it something of a futile pursuit.
"But I get bored and it's there," he said, "so I look for the heck of it. But the less I'm thinking, the better I'm playing. If I could, I wouldn't watch a single second of video, because I was a way better hitter not knowing what they did. I watched way too much last year."
Even internally, Reddick didn't want to use his sprained right wrist as an excuse, even though the injury -- suffered just seven games into the season, when he ran into a wall at Houston's Minute Maid Park -- was probably the crux of his year-long woes. He's recently acknowledged this, to some extent.
* * *
Tweaking his swing became a daily habit, just to accommodate his wrist and the pain he experienced each time he unsuccessfully turned on those inside pitches that used to be his specialty. Quickly, it became a mean mental game.
"I didn't want to use the injury as a crutch and say this is the only reason why I'm not playing or performing right now, but looking back, you don't really know how much it was, how much it wasn't, because it did actually hurt swinging," Reddick said. "I still don't blame everything on it. There were times my confidence was so low I went up to the plate wondering how the heck I was even going to touch the baseball. There were a lot of things going on -- injury, mental strength. You can't really separate them because it's all kind of connected in some way."
This gnawed at him.
April was the worst. Six days after X-rays on Reddick's sprained wrist came back negative, he went 0-for-5 with three strikeouts. The next day, he was pulled from the third spot in the lineup, where he started 141 of his previous 161 games, and batted sixth. Three days and only one hit later, he hit seventh. Five days after that, he was down to the eight-hole.
"That took a toll on me, because I was used to being that middle-of-the-lineup guy that everyone counted on," he said. "Having that kind of demotion, my pride, it kind of hurt me."
Then he went on the disabled list for the first time in his career, retreating to the sidelines and out of a spotlight that had been so kind to him the year before, when he christened his first season in green and gold with 32 home runs and became a fan favorite. Reddick would only hit 12 in 2013.
He retreated to his quiet place, "as a way to make myself the sideshow and not the main attraction, so to speak," he said.
"I really wanted to be left alone a lot of times last year. There wasn't much to talk about at my locker, anyway."
* * *
"I think it's normal when you go through something like that to sit back and not be vocal," said teammate Brandon Moss. "I think it was good for him in a lot of ways. It's never good to struggle,and it's never good to be injured, but in a lot of ways, it gives you perspective, it gives you motivation. He had such a good year the year before, and a lot of times, when you have years like that, it's really easy to forget how hard the game can be.
"The game's hard enough, and it can be even harder when there are outside factors involved. He had to realize not everything is in his control. I think he'll be better for it."
Reddick counts Moss as one of his closest friends on the team. He's formed an even stronger bond with Coco Crisp, together a little bit of an odd couple -- "He's white, I'm black. He's country, I'm hip hop," a smiling Crisp says -- but pieces of a truly authentic friendship. The two would go to dinner often last year, sometimes even have sleepovers, and simply talk about life. This was a rare outlet for Reddick.
"I like people who are genuine," said Crisp. "He stays true to himself."
Reddick just didn't look like himself -- outside of a four-game series in Toronto in August, when he homered five times in two days to tie a Major League record. The feat followed an ugly 0-for-20 stretch and suddenly had Reddick on cloud nine.
Was he back?
"Once that happened, I thought that this thing was going to hold up fine," Reddick said. "'Keep doing what you're doing,' I kept telling myself, 'and still get the surgery in the offseason.' It just didn't work out."
* * *
Reddick went just 3-for-23 from Aug. 17-25, before returning to the DL the next day. He was reinstated Sept. 10 and hit .304 with two homers in his final 17 games, bringing his average to .226 by year's end -- including a .200 mark against left-handers, fifth lowest in the American League, and .238 vs. righties. His OPS dropped from .768 in 2012 to .686 in '13, and after that rough season, he was he ready to make the trek back to Georgia with his dogs, Backster and Murray.
"I was really ready to just be in my home environment, because I knew once I got around family and friends, I was going to be able to clear my head a lot better," he said. "I just felt like I wasn't really a part of the team. I wasn't doing anything to help outside the Toronto series. I just didn't do a whole lot to provide my team the success that I should have."
Reddick underwent surgery on his right wrist in October and sometimes wonders if he should have done so sooner, maybe to avoid the cloud of doubt that now hovers above him as a player.
Following an offseason spent converting his garage into a man cave, complete with a pool table, poker table, a dart board and of course Georgia Bulldog carpet tiles, and making frequent trips down the road to grandma's house for a taste of home cooking, Reddick is "moving on and forgetting about it all, all the bad."
There was a lot of that, no doubt, but dissipated by time driving into town with his 2-year-old niece, or reliving high school drama through talks with his 16-year-old sister.
"A lot of people are saying I have something to prove," said Reddick, who has three hits in his first seven Cactus League at-bats, along with two memorable home run-robbing catches. "I don't know that I have to prove anything, or think about this as a new start. I've shown my abilities and what I can do at this level. I just have to get back to that, now that I'm healthy again.
"I don't want to just be a guy who hits in the eight-hole and provides defense. I can be a guy that can carry a team for awhile. Hopefully this year I'll have more of that cocky-confidence attitude, not to the point of being a nuisance, but to where I can walk up to the plate with a little bit of strut in my stuff and have a little more confidence up there."
"He's out here with a new mentality," said Crisp. "Things turned pretty quickly for him, and it was hard watching him go through it. That's the humbling part of this game you don't want to go through. But it happens, and I think he handled it well, and he's going to be a better person because of it. He gets to start from scratch, and we'll see where it ends up."