The uniform will be different, the role figures to be quite the same.
If Ben Zobrist was jolted by his trade from the Tampa Bay Rays, he can take consolation in joining an A’s team that will value his versatility every bit as much.
Zobrist addressed the Bay Area media Monday for the first time since he and shortstop Yunel Escobar were acquired by Oakland for catcher John Jaso and two prospects. He called the news “bittersweet” when he heard he was dealt from Tampa Bay, the only organization he’s known in his nine-year major league career. But he sees similarities between the clubs.
“I think, from what I know about the organization, and the way they’ve done things in the past, it seems they do things very similar to Tampa Bay,” Zobrist said. “They like to do a lot of matchups, find different ways to be creative with the lineup. (The Rays) loved the type of player that I am. I definitely know that Oakland thinks the same way about me and what I bring to a club. It’s exciting to go to a club where they know what they’re getting.”
[RELATED: A's acquire Zobrist, Escobar from Rays]
Other interesting tidbits to come from his media session:
-- It figures that Zobrist will slot in as the A’s new second baseman. If so, he and Escobar might form Oakland’s double-play combo, just as they often did with the Rays. Zobrist couldn’t suppress a laugh when comparing his playing style to Escobar’s.
“Yunel and I are very different in the way we field ground balls,” he said. “Yunel is a slick-fielding Latin guy who makes it look pretty, and I’m not that. I get to the ball and get rid of it, and hopefully it’s on the money. It’s not necessarily gonna look pretty, but I get the job done. We’ve found a comfort level … and since we’ve communicated the last couple of years on those things, I think it’ll be easier to make that transition over there.”
-- Remember last year’s “Rally Possum” game at the Coliseum between the A’s and Rays? Zobrist was playing left field when the furry critter made its on-field appearance near the Oakland bullpen. Zobrist was giving chase to a foul ball off the bat of Alberto Callaspo.
“That was a strange moment. I was playing a bit in the gap and wasn’t paying much attention to the corner,” he said. “I saw the ball go in the stands, and there was something in the corner of my eye. I thought, ‘What in the world?’ I looked over and there it was, this baby possum staring right up at me. I stood looking at this thing like, ‘Where in the world did you come from?’ I looked at the bullpen and they were laughing. They looked just as surprised as I was.”
-- Zobrist has played every defensive position but catcher in his big league career, and he’s logged extensive time at second, shortstop and the outfield. How did he become so versatile?
“I had to keep an open mind early on” in his career, Zobrist said. “I wasn’t playing well enough as an everyday player at shortstop to keep me in the lineup. … I always looked at (my versatility) as a positive for our club. For me, it’s a little more difficult to prepare because of that sometimes. But I also think it helps during the course of a long season to not get complacent. For me, it’s helpful to see the game from a different point of view. I have to stay on my toes and think of things before they happen when I’m at a position I haven’t played a lot of.”
--In light of all the moves the A’s have made this winter, Zobrist will be just one of many Athletics getting used to new surroundings when he arrives at spring training.
“Every year there’s a bit of culture change in every clubhouse. There always was in Tampa Bay,” he said. “But certain guys are staples. Certain guys are staples in Oakland. They’ve been there a few years. We’ll take our cues from how they do things. But at the same time, it’s a new dynamic and a new chemistry that has to be cultivated at the start of every year.”