Newcomer Bleday happy to be with A's after 'blindside' trade


New Athletics outfielder JJ Bleday has had quite the week, from exchanging pleasantries at Miami Marlins FanFest last Saturday to being traded to Oakland later that night.

He arrived at A's camp in Mesa, Ariz. on Friday, where he told reporters the trade was "definitely a blindside," and was eager for a chance to compete for a roster spot. (h/t San Francisco Chronicle's Matt Kawahara).

Bleday also said there was a sense of bitterness with the trade at first.

"But once it kind of settled in, I’m really happy to be here," Bleday told reporters. "I think it’s going to be a good fit and an exciting opportunity.”

The A's traded former top pitching prospect A.J. Puk to the Marlins for Bleday, the No. 4 overall pick of the 2019 MLB Draft, on Feb. 11. The 25-year-old made his MLB debut with Miami last season and slashed .167/277/.309 with five homers and 16 RBI in 65 games -- a stint he described Friday as "humbling."

"The jump from Triple-A to the big leagues was definitely bigger than I anticipated,” Bleday said. “There were some things in the big leagues I was doing mechanically that I probably shouldn’t have been. You’re really unaware of it but you have no time to work on that stuff. Because you’re playing every single day. There’s 95-plus on the mound every night. And it’s relentless.


“It’s a relentless league. That’s one thing I learned is there’s someone coming for your throat every day. And you’ve got to be prepared and ready for it.”

Oakland moving on from Puk for Bleday came as a surprise, but A's general manager David Forst said Wednesday there were a couple of things they liked about Bleday that encouraged the team to trade for him.

"Really like the power," Forst said (h/t's Martin Gallegos). "There’s elite plate discipline there. And he can play center and is really good in the corners.”

Before joining the Marlins' big league squad, Bleday hit .229 with 20 home runs in 85 games at Triple-A. In Miami, Bleday walked 12.6 percent of the time -- 21st among MLB hitters with at least 200 plate appearances -- but still struck out at an above-average rate (h/t Kawahara).

Forst believes Bleday could be an everyday outfielder for Oakland, but he'll face stiff competition this spring as he looks to earn a spot. In addition to regulars Ramón Laureano and Seth Brown, players like Esteury Ruiz, Jace Peterson, Cristian Pache, Cal Stevenson and others will be vying for a role as well.

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And as he embarks on this latest challenge, feeling the best he's felt "since college" at Vanderbilt, Bleday has a goal in mind.

"Really it just comes down to: Dominate the heater," Bleday told reporters. "When I went to the big leagues, I was missing heaters, man. And again, guys are throwing hard and all that. But I thought I was getting in great counts, I was taking my walks, and then you just foul [pitches] off, foul them off -- and then you get the b-----d pitch.

"So, the main emphasis is hit the heater this year. Dominate that in your work, hit off the machine and take that into the game. And if you’re on the heater, odds are you’re going to be on the off-speed.”

If Bleday can master that, A's fans might just see a lot of him this season.