03/07/12 3:00 PM EST
Offseason work has Suzuki ready for 2012
Catcher spent time honing his defensive prowess
By Joey Nowak / MLB.com
The backstop made a concerted effort this offseason to improve his defensive play, and it's already shown this spring. Suzuki says he's come into camp at a more comfortable weight, and he feels like he has more life in his arm. He's already made his mark cutting down baserunners during Oakland's Cactus League schedule.
"I felt strong last year, I felt like I was in good shape," Suzuki said on Wednesday. "But I didn't feel like I was in baseball shape. I thought I was a little lighter than I would like. This year, I put on a few pounds and weighed in to what I usually weigh. ... I feel stronger, more balanced."
The key to his arm, Suzuki says, is in his legs.
"The main thing is the footwork, using your legs," he said. "The more you use your legs, the less pressure it puts on the rest of your arm. The less you use your arm, the more you can work on your throwing -- because there isn't that stress. You can use your legs and do a lot of reps."
Those reps have come a bit easier this spring in Phoenix, Suzuki said, after he felt like he did a little too much early in last year's camp. His arm became tender and he didn't have the strength to work on his game. That, he said, led to inconsistency.
"My throwing was -- it wasn't a weak point, it was just inconsistent," Suzuki said. "It felt like I never really got into a groove throwing, and I worked on it and worked on it. But some days I'd have good ones, and some days I'd have bad ones. It wasn't consistently how I would like it."
This year, Suzuki took to an offseason workout that included daily long toss -- an exercise he never performed until he would reach Spring Training. But doing so this winter helped to keep his arm in shape. Now, he says he just has to control those things he can.
"A lot of it's mental and not rushing, and knowing that if you do your job and put the ball on the bag on a consistent basis, that's the only thing you can control," Suzuki said.
Manager Bob Melvin said the mental aspect is paramount in the A's getting the most out of their catcher, who at times last season would try to do too much to bail out the pitching staff.
"I think last year got out of whack, a little bit, because we weren't great about holding runners. And I think, as a catcher, you try to figure out a way to try to be quicker," Melvin said. "You can get a little out of whack with your mechanics, so we're working on consistent mechanics this spring. He certainly has the ability to be a very good thrower."
Suzuki says he's all for improving the defensive aspect of his game, but is determined to not let it affect what he considers to be his most important responsibility with the club.
"My main goal is to make sure the pitcher [is] comfortable," Suzuki said. "I focus on my hitting, I focus on my defense, but the main objective is to learn my pitchers -- to build that relationship with my pitchers.
"I don't expect them to trust me the first or second time catching them in a game. You earn their trust by getting their respect. You earn that respect and that trust factor, and that's my job to show them that I care and that I'm gonna work hard for them. I'm there for them. I'm not there for me."