05/05/08 5:00 PM ET
Cust named AL Player of Week
A's slugger recognized for three-homer, four-RBI effort
By Brittany Ghiroli / MLB.com
Cust hit .500 last week with three home runs, a double and four RBIs -- an offensive feat that garnered the 29-year-old a fair share of attention throughout the American League. For his efforts, the New Jersey native was named the AL Player of the Week for the second time in his career.
Cust's offensive output the past seven games is even more impressive when you consider his early season numbers; he was hitting just .155 over his first 21 games.
So what sparked his emergence out of the early season slump?
A's manager Bob Geren described Cust's swing as "looser" and "more relaxed."
"He could be seeing the ball better," Geren said after Sunday's game. "There's not a big mechanical adjustment. It could be just bat speed."
The slugger has a more concrete theory, literally. Cust attributed the harder wood of his "Old Hickory" bats as the reason he has been able to appear "relaxed" at the plate.
The designated hitter received a new shipment of bats during the team's last road series against the Angels, and went 6-for-10 with a home run. His game on Thursday was particularly impressive, as Cust was 4-for-4 with two walks and three runs.
"The bats I had in Spring Training were really bad," Cust said. "They were soft. The guy told me they made a mistake with the kind of wood."
Cust recalled a mid-April game against Kansas City in which his blast was caught short at the warning track.
"I've never hit a ball that good and not have it go out," he said. "So, they sent these [new bats] out real quick."
Although the slugger says he made a minor mechanical adjustment at the plate, Cust believes the harder wood has also contributed to his recent power surge. Three of the left-handed hitter's four home runs this season have come in May, and his most recent blast -- an opposite-field, two-run homer -- helped lift the A's over the Rangers on Sunday, 3-1.
The home run was his second in last weekend's homestand vs. Texas, in which Cust finished 4-for-10 with three RBIs.
Over the past week, Cust has posted a 1.000 slugging percentage along with a .600 on-base percentage, numbers that come as no surprise to Geren. The skipper was confident his slugger was on the verge of returning to the form that made him Oakland's leader in home runs (26) and RBIs (82) last season.
"Hopefully he can carry it into the next game, the next week, the next month, and do what he did for us last year," pitcher Justin Duchscherer said, following Cust's multiple-hit performance on Thursday. "He's a big part of our offense."
"He's proven he's a good hitter," teammate Bobby Crosby added. "It's just a matter of time."
A pair of Tigers sluggers, Placido Polanco and Curtis Granderson, were also considered for the weekly award. Starters Joe Saunders of the Angels and Toronto's Roy Halladay joined closers Jonathan Papelbon of the Red Sox and Minnesota's Joe Nathan as this week's nominated pitchers.
Brittany Ghiroli is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.