Suzuki getting it done at the plate
A's catcher produces offense to go with acclaimed defense
OAKLAND -- Defense is what put catcher Kurt Suzuki on the fast track to the Major Leagues after the A's drafted him out of Cal State Fullerton in the second round in 2004.
Who knew he'd turn out to be such a good hitter?
Well, at least one person did.
"I always thought of myself as a decent hitter," Suzuki said before Thursday's game against Texas. "I always could hit my whole life. Obviously I had that rep of being a good defensive catcher. That doesn't change anything. My main focus is defense.
"I've done a lot of things over the past year or so to make my game over and kind of step it up on defense a little more. ... At the same time, I find time to do offensive work. I come in here extra early so I can add in my offensive work because I don't want to be known as a one-side catcher. I want to be known as a great all-around catcher."
Suzuki hit a team-best .279 with 42 RBIs, seven home runs and 54 runs scored last year, his first full season in the big leagues. This year, he's done more than just pick up where he left off.
Entering Thursday's game, Suzuki was hitting a team-best .312 with 13 RBIs, two home runs and 11 runs scored. He's the only Athletic hitting over. 300. Over his past 13 games he has hit .380 with seven doubles, two homers and all 13 of his RBIs.
"I like to say I feel just right," Suzuki said of his fast start. "Not too high, not too low. Try to keep things simple. You really don't want to overanalyze everything. When you're swing feels good, it feels good."
Suzuki did get analytical, if only for a moment. He said the experience he gained playing a full season last year helped him log more knowledge about the pitchers he's facing.
"That has a lot to do with it," Suzuki said. "The main thing is I try to keep it simple. Last year and the year before, when I ran into some good pitching, I'd overanalyze things instead of just saying, 'He just pitched great.'
"I was beating myself up. Now, as much as you hate to tip your hat, this is the big leagues. You run into some great pitching."
Suzuki had to grow up quickly as a rookie in 2007. He spent five weeks as Jason Kendall's backup and then became the starter when Kendall was traded on July 16. Some A's pitchers weren't exactly happy losing the veteran Kendall and throwing to a raw rookie.
"I think it helped me more mentally and defensively," Suzuki said. "That situation I was thrown into, unfortunately, was rough. I understood where the pitchers were coming from. They had a great relationship with Jason.
"At the same time, I had confidence in my ability that with time, I was going to be able to step up my game. I really didn't get down on myself. It gave me more fire to become a catcher that pitchers looked up to like Jason Kendall, becoming a person that everyone loves throwing to. I worked that much harder on my defensive drills, knowing the pitchers, studying."
Suzuki, of course, also found time to work on his hitting. He handled both parts of his job well enough last year to have his name on the All-Star Game ballot this season.
"That's cool," Suzuki said. "From a personal standpoint, it's nice to have. But my main thing is getting to the playoffs. That's the ultimate goal. You want to be playing in October. The last couple years I went home and watched it on TV. You kind of get that itch. You want to get there. You want to feel that experience."
Eric Gilmore is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.