MESA, Ariz. – Tyler Ladendorf has been toiling in the A’s farm system since 2009, waiting for his major league opportunity.
It may finally arrive this season.
Ladendorf has been one of the under-the-radar standouts of Oakland’s spring camp, hitting .355 and impressing manager Bob Melvin with his ability to play all over the diamond.
In Tuesday’s 13-2 victory over the San Diego Padres, the infielder launched a three-run homer that caromed off the scoreboard far beyond the left field wall at Hohokam Stadium. That gave him a team-leading nine RBI in 12 Cactus League games.
“He’s really opening our eyes,” Melvin said. “The way he’s been swinging the bat, his defensive versatility. He increases his chances to be in the big leagues at some point in time. He has really put himself on the map with us.”
The A’s acquired the 27-year-old Ladendorf from the Minnesota Twins at the 2009 trade deadline for shortstop Orlando Cabrera and cash. Since then he’s accumulated 2,320 at-bats over 644 minor league games. He’s primarily played second and short, and his glove always has been a strong point. But it wasn’t until last season, when he hit .297 at Triple-A (including .395 in 81 at-bats against lefties) that he truly put things together at the plate.
Ladendorf played in just 78 games last year, due in part to a 50-game suspension for violating the Minor League Drug Testing Program. This spring, he’s drawing attention for the right reasons. In addition to the middle infield, Ladendorf has appeared at all three outfield spots and third base, which he said is the position he’s most unfamiliar with.
Before Tuesday’s game, Melvin talked as if he considered Ladendorf a candidate to make the club out of spring training. That will depend partly on whether right fielder Josh Reddick, sidelined by a strained oblique, begins the season on the disabled list. If so, the A’s need to decide if they want to keep another true outfielder or a versatile utility man such as Ladendorf or Andy Parrino. Unlike Parrino, Ladendorf is already on the 40-man roster.
FAMILIAR FACE: Former A’s third baseman Eric Chavez dropped by camp for a visit. The six-time Gold Glover announced his retirement in July and will work part-time for CSN California this season, splitting his time between color commentating during A’s broadcasts and serving as a studio analyst for A’s pre- and postgame shows.
LIGHTER SIDE: Melvin’s morning media session was crashed by none other than former Reds shortstop great Dave Concepcion. Melvin was startled, in a humorous way, when Concepcion -- standing behind the pack of reporters -- asked Melvin his age.
The two have known each other for years, and Concepcion dropped by hoping to see third base prospect and fellow Venezuelan Renato Nunez, who had just been reassigned to minor league camp a day earlier. Concepcion is vice president of Los Tigres de Aragua, a team Nunez has played for.
Concepcion also chatted briefly with A’s special instructor Rickey Henderson. That duo combined for 19 All-Star appearances during their careers.
QUOTABLE: “I’ll take that line all day long.” – A’s lefty Scott Kazmir, after he threw four innings of one-hit ball at the Padres, striking out six with no walks.
ODDS AND ENDS: Ben Zobrist connected for his first homer of the spring, a three-run shot to right-center that cleared the wall at one of the deepest parts of the park. … Brett Lawrie, who entered the game 2-for-20 this spring, doubled down the left-field line in his first two at-bats. … Switch pitcher Pat Venditte threw a scoreless inning, surrendering one hit. He’s allowed two runs over five appearances (5.0 innings). … First baseman Ike Davis, out with a sore back, still has not been cleared for games. He is running and swinging the bat. … A.J. Griffin threw a bullpen session Tuesday, and the A’s other starter on the comeback from Tommy John surgery, Jarrod Parker, will face hitters for the second time Wednesday.