2/14/2013 7:10 P.M. ET
Taylor getting instruction on art of playing first
By Jane Lee / MLB.com
PHOENIX -- Scott Hatteberg was back at first base in A's camp on Thursday, 11 years after he learned the position on a whim for the "Moneyball" inspired 2002 team.
Only this time he was doing the instructing rather than the learning. That job went to A's outfielder Michael Taylor, who took countless ground balls under a warm Arizona sun, as he attempts to diversify his skill set as a 27-year-old prospect entering his seventh professional season.
He's played in 654 Minor League games and just 17 at the big league level.
"I think it would be foolish for me in this point of my career to not be able to go over there if something were to happen," Taylor said. "It doesn't necessarily mean that I'm going to be full time there, but being able to move around can only help me, because if an opportunity opens up here or anywhere else, I at least can say I have some experience there and I can help there."
This is exactly what ex-outfielder Brandon Moss did last year, recognizing early on in A's camp that a crowded outfield limited his chances of making the team. Moss began the year at Triple-A Sacramento and immediately began work at first base, seeing an opportunity that could boost his career. That it did, as Moss got his call back to the big leagues in the middle of the season as a first baseman, a role that's seemingly all his heading into camp.
The A's also have Daric Barton, who bats left-handed like Moss. Taylor's right-handed bat could potentially provide a better complement, though.
"About a month ago I made the decision that it would be advantageous, in general, for me to be able to go over there and just try it out," said Taylor, ranked by MLB.com as the A's No. 12 prospect. "It's gotten to the point in my career where, wherever you can find a place, keep a job, here or there, whether it's in Triple-A or the big leagues, it's nice to have that in your bag.
"I'm just trying to be as versatile as possible, and if I can do that hopefully create more value for myself."
"I think he's just trying make himself available and give himself every opportunity," infield coach Mike Gallego said. "Surprisingly he looks a lot more comfortable over there than I would expect. He doesn't look out of place. He looks athletic enough over there to where he might get away with it."
Taylor, who is using utility player Adam Rosales' first base glove for the time being, is hoping to land a start or two at the position once Cactus League play begins. Until then, he plans to soak in as much as he can from Hatteberg, as well as A's special adviser Phil Garner and Sacramento hitting coach Greg Sparks -- a former first baseman -- like he did on Thursday.
Taylor, who hasn't played in the infield since age 11, also hasn't been shy in turning to Moss and Barton for advice.
"It's an adjustment," he said. "Right now I know what the ball's doing about 10, 15 feet away from me, so I'm trying to extend that out, get better reads off the bat. But it's going better than I thought it would."
Nakajima getting head start on Spring Training
PHOENIX -- Hiroyuki Nakajima is going to be just fine.
That seems to be the general consensus around A's camp, where the Japanese shortstop has made quite the first impression.
"We're all pleasantly surprised with what we are seeing," manager Bob Melvin said. "His hands work very well, as far as batting practice, and he's not trying to do too much. His hands looked very sure while taking ground balls, too."
Position players aren't required to report to camp until Saturday, but Nakajima has already been paying visits to the A's spring facilities for two weeks, as he continues to make necessary adjustments required of a transition to the Major Leagues.
Infield coach Mike Gallego, who gained insight while working with Japanese shortstop Kaz Matsui in Colorado, has been by his side every step of the way and has naturally tucked away a handful of evaluations.
"Excellent hands. Quick feet," Gallego said. "One thing that I did see over the first couple of days is that he has a tendency to stay back on balls, and that's due to how much time he's spent on turf. He's gotta make an adjustment with the natural surface and improve his angles, because he's just so used to fielding side to side. In a week, he's already making that adjustment, so he's very impressive in that manner, as far as knowing what he has to do to get it done out there."
Gallego deems both Nakajima's arm and range "a little better than average," noting that the latter will only get better as he accumulates knowledge of the team's pitchers and their tendencies.
"He seems very astute, as far as knowledge of the game and understanding the nuances of becoming a top-shelf Major League infielder," he said. "It's always been pretty impressive how well these guys that don't speak the language communicate with their teammates, and how universally wide baseball lingo is."