KANSAS CITY — The A’s come right off the road and begin a 10-game homestand Friday night, and there will be some emotion tied to the storyline this weekend.
Josh Reddick, now playing right field for the Houston Astros, makes his return to the Coliseum, the ballpark he called home for 4 1/2 seasons and where he blossomed into a starting major league outfielder.
He’s expecting the series to tug at his heartstrings.
In an interview with the Houston Chronicle, Reddick recalled the final home game he played at the Coliseum last season in late July, shortly before he and Rich Hill were dealt at the Aug. 1 trade deadline to the Dodgers for pitchers Jharel Cotton, Frankie Montas and Grant Holmes.
Reddick said he soaked in every last moment he could before leaving the field after that last home game against Tampa Bay.
“I sat in the dugout for probably a good 15 minutes after the game was over, the last one in there,” Reddick told the newspaper. “Kind of emotional. You cry because you've played in some emotional games there. I mean, look at what we did in '12 and '13 and even ’14.”
Reddick hit 32 homers and was a core member of the 2012 A’s team that made a mad rush to a division title in the season’s final week. Injuries ate into his next two seasons, but he was still a key man on the division-winning club of 2013 and the team that earned a Wild Card berth in 2014.
Looking beyond the stats, Reddick built a strong bond with A’s fans, particularly the die-hards in the right field bleachers who set up shop right behind him while he played defense.
“It’ll be a little different,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said before Thursday’s 3-1 loss at Kansas City. “I’ve never seen him, other than a short time in Boston, in a different uniform than ours.”
With Reddick poised to become a free agent for the first time after the 2016 season, it became apparent as the A’s fell out of contention by midseason that he likely would get traded. He hit .258 over 47 games with the Dodgers, then hit .364 in an NL Championship Series loss to the Cubs, before heading into the offseason and landing a four-year, $52 million contract with the Astros. He’s hitting .333 (9-for-27) with no homers and two RBI so far, serving as Houston’s primary right fielder but drawing one start in left.
In the Houston Chronicle story, Reddick recalled how after signing his deal with Houston, he talked to Melvin and told him that he wanted Stephen Vogt to catch his first game against the A’s so he could give Vogt a hug at home plate. As it turns out, Josh Phegley will get the start at catcher Friday against Astros lefty Dallas Keuchel, but surely Reddick will spread the love around before the game as he catches up with old friends.
But the A’s will quickly shift to the business of a 10-game homestand featuring all AL West opponents — three games against Houston, three against Texas and four against Seattle. Oakland returns home with a 5-5 record, having gone 3-3 on its first road trip to Texas and Kansas City.
One area the A’s really need to tighten up right now is their defense. They’ve committed a league-high 11 errors — five by their pitchers. Starter Jesse Hahn dropped an easy flip while covering first base Thursday night and Mark Canha dropped a catchable liner in right field.
“That kind of skews the hard work we’re doing with our guys,” Melvin said. “That’s a play we should make (in right). I can’t explain the ones on the pitching end right now. In spring training, that’s all we do is work on (pitchers’ fielding) stuff.”
Ryon Healy downplayed a moment in Thursday’s game where he had words with Royals catcher Salvador Perez after an inside pitch from Jason Vargas.
“The way the pitch took me, I kind of looked back to him like, ‘Hey, that was inside,’” Healy said afterward. “There was nothing else that I said. Salvy kind of jumped on me and it escalated form there.”
As quickly as things heated up, the situation was defused.
“I told Salvy (later in the game), ‘Hey, we’re good man,’” Healy said.