01/27/2013 9:38 PM ET
Cespedes aiming to grow in sophomore season
By Jane Lee / MLB.com
But the outfielder believes his sophomore season has the potential to trump it, so long as he remains healthy -- an issue he encountered last year by way of a handful of nagging injuries.
Cespedes, limited to 129 games, worked to remedy the problem this winter by engaging in more stretching and flexibility exercises with his trainers near his offseason home in Miami.
"Last season, when the season went along, I started stretching a lot," Cespedes said through a translator at FanFest on Sunday. "I learned to do this because I had never played that many games before. I did a lot of stuff to try and improve and avoid injuries."
In Cuba, the regular season spans just 90 games. Moreover, many of them are "lopsided," Cespedes explained, so "I didn't have to play as strong as I did all year long. That was a big difference."
"He's very much aware of his own body, and maybe the one thing he didn't know coming into last season was what a workload it would be going from 90 games to 162," manager Bob Melvin said. "At the end of the season he was on fumes, but wouldn't be denied. He was going out there every day knowing he'd have to play hurt. He has the recognition to know things he can do to combat that."
Through it all, the 27-year-old Cespedes managed to post a team-leading .292 average with 23 home runs and 82 RBIs in his first year in the United States. He also led the A's in slugging percentage (.505).
"His talent's pretty scary," general manager Billy Beane said. "I'm not sure I've ever seen a player improve at the rate he did last year. It wouldn't surprise me if he takes it to a higher level this year. It's just about keeping him on the field, and if we can do that, there's no doubt he can improve."
What exactly does Cespedes hope to improve upon?
"Everything," he responded.
Nakajima quickly fitting in with new teammates
OAKLAND -- Of all the storied ballparks waiting to be visited by Hiroyuki Nakajima, the A's new shortstop just wants to see the one he'll call home this year.
And on Sunday, while in Oakland for the team's annual FanFest, Nakajima thought, "Hopefully this time it will be a baseball field."
But the Oakland Coliseum, transformed into a football field for the Oakland Raiders during Nakajima's first tour of the vicinities, was set up for a motocross event. Still, a beaming Nakajima was clearly enthused to be part of Sunday's festivities and meet his new teammates and fans.
"All the fans were cheering and calling me Hiro," the always smiling Nakajima said through a translator. "I was surprised about that."
"He's got one of those faces that lights up a room," general manager Billy Beane said. "He's going to be a lot of fun to have around."
It was just last month, shortly after the A's signed the 30-year-old Japanese infielder to a two-year deal, when Nakajima called Beane "extremely sexy and cool."
"I have no worries about him, given our impressions," Beane joked Sunday. "He's going to do just fine. I'm worried about my transition to him."
"Right now I don't have any worries with him," manager Bob Melvin echoed. "It seems like the Japanese players that have come over and succeeded have been leaders. They've stepped up out front, aren't afraid to lead, aren't afraid to be the guy that's put in a position to potentially fail. He is one of those guys from everything I've heard. He's a very effervescent guy."
Nakajima's fun-loving personality should seemingly bode well with the laid-back nature of Oakland's loose clubhouse. And even though he's one of the newbies in it, the shortstop is ready to share a leadership role if necessary.
"If [Melvin] really did say that, I'm really excited and thrilled about it," he said, "and I'm going to be all that I can to become that kind of presence on the team."
He surely makes friends fast, having already exchanged words with outfielder Chris Young, who taught him what's become Nakajima's favorite English expression -- "for real."
Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.