With most of the attention on their young players getting opportunities elsewhere on the diamond, the A’s are starting to take a good look at catcher Bruce Maxwell too.
The rookie is taking advantage of it. It wasn’t like his night particularly stood out in Monday’s rout of the Royals — it’s difficult to spotlight a single player in a 16-3 drubbing. But Maxwell’s 2-for-4 performance, with two runs scored, continued a nice spurt for him at the plate.
He’s notched multiple hits in each of his last three starts, and he’s 9-for-17 over his past five games. Expect the 25-year-old Maxwell to continue getting decent playing time over the final 19 games. Upon the A’s release of Billy Butler on Sunday, manager Bob Melvin mentioned that the move would allow him to slot Stephen Vogt at DH a little more, giving the veteran some rest and thus allowing Maxwell more time behind the plate.
“It’s a lot more comfortable,” Maxwell told CSN California’s Glen Kuiper and Ray Fosse after the game. “I’m playing a little more consistently, and I’m getting an opportunity to start some more games. Just having my repetitions on a consistent basis is helping me get more comfortable at the plate and definitely behind the plate.”
[INSTANT REPLAY: A's offense erupts in 16-3 rout of Royals]
Granted, there doesn’t seem to be much mystery surrounding the A’s catching situation next year. Vogt is entering just his first season of salary arbitration, so he’s affordable. He’ll play next season at age 32, so he should still be able to handle the rigors of being a regular catcher. But the A’s also need to look in their crystal ball and figure out who will eventually take the reins from Vogt.
Josh Phegley, 28, will be coming off complications from knee surgery that landed him in the hospital for a short spell. The A’s traded their best catching prospect in February, when they shipped Jacob Nottingham to Milwaukee in a package to get Khris Davis. By playing Maxwell now, they could glean some insight as to whether he seems to be a potential long-range answer at the position.
At 25, it’s tough to label Maxwell a true “prospect.” But he’s young enough to potentially be viewed as the A’s future at the position. That’s what this audition period is about.
Upon Maxwell’s first major league call-up in July, he got a big thumbs up from Jesse Hahn for his handling of pitchers. The 2012 draft pick didn’t convert to catching until early in his college career, so much of the A’s work with him early in his pro career focused on defense. Club officials have been wanting to see more power from his bat, and he began showing it this season when he hit 10 homers at Triple-A, his first time cracking double digits in professional ball.
Maxwell has appeared in just 18 of 46 games overall since his promotion, but he’s been in the lineup for five of the A’s 10 games in September. That alone has helped him at the plate.
“Everything was fast (early on),” Maxwell said. “I went a lot of days in between starts, but it’s slowed down because I’m in the box more. I’ve been able to develop a routine.”