OAKLAND — The process is ongoing for Ryon Healy as he searches for his comfort zone as a designated hitter.
After playing third base regularly last season in his major league debut, he’s seeing the majority of his playing time this year at DH.
He’s picked the brain of A’s teammate Stephen Vogt in seeking out the best way to prepare himself for his at-bats when not playing in the field. But Healy also has sought advice outside of the A’s clubhouse.
In the latest edition of The A’s Insider Podcast, Healy revealed that veterans such as Carlos Beltran and Nelson Cruz have provided some wisdom for preparing as a designated hitter. Cruz, the Seattle Mariners’ DH, is one player that Healy has found particularly helpful.
“I’ve talked to him a little bit,” Healy said. “Just kind of quick questions, ‘What do you do during the game?’ He kind of just told me ‘Stay on your feet, don’t get too relaxed.’ Just little things like that.”
The assumption through much of the offseason was that Healy would open 2017 as Oakland’s everyday third baseman after he hit .305 with 13 homers in 72 games last season as a rookie. But when the A’s signed Trevor Plouffe to a one-year deal in January, it meant Healy’s at-bats would have to come at a different spot.
And as the DH, the extra time on the bench between at-bats has provided some challenges for the second-year player.
“I found myself over-analyzing my at-bats, so I really had to stop doing that,” he said. “Everyone tells me in the clubhouse, your numbers are measured over the course of a season, not over the measure of a game or a series or a week.
“I was over-analyzing every single pitch I was getting and every single swing I was taking. It was unhealthy. I was training my mind to think negatively. (The key) was more just to focus on the positive, learning what I did right or wrong and just move on. Finding a good routine that helps me go at-bat to at-bat instead of carrying a bunch of at-bats with me up to the plate and trying to fix everything with one swing.”
The A’s and Mariners played each other in three different series last year after Healy was called up at the All-Star break, and that gave the corner infielder a chance to chat up Cruz when Cruz was on base and Healy was in the field.
"He’s a very approachable guy, but you have to choose your moments,” Healy said. “I knew he had that kind of personality, so I wasn’t afraid to ask a question if the situation in the game was appropriate. Say there was a pitching change going on or something, I’d make an effort to go ask just because I was curious to learn from that much experience, that much big league time. With how much success he’s had, there has to be some knowledge to be gained.”