11/30/11 8:15 PM EST
Suzuki trying to pack on pounds this offseason
By Jane Lee / MLB.com
"That's not normal, I don't think," Kurt Suzuki says.
But the practice has become routine this offseason for the A's catcher, who is attempting to add on 15 pounds by the start of camp in an effort to help him sustain strength through the season.
"You're training to play not just once a week, but every day," he said. "That takes a toll on your body, especially being a catcher in the middle of the summer, when you're out there in 90- and 100-degree heat. It takes a lot of energy, and you do tend to shed weight."
Speaking by phone near his home in Southern California on Wednesday, Suzuki noted several times that he's well aware how -- in his terms -- "gluttonous" his diet sounds, especially when breaking down a typical daily eating schedule.
Suzuki starts his day by 8 a.m., taking in a breakfast panini -- check that, two of them -- along with a serving of fruit. At 10 a.m., he begins his workouts, which can last from 1 1/2 to three hours, and consumes an energy bar in the middle and a 600-calorie protein shake at the end.
Not long after is lunch, which one day consisted of a pair of turkey burgers, a salad and more fruit. Something similar in stock to a barbecue chicken flatbread follows -- not as dinner, but simply as an afternoon snack. The dinner menu, rather, might look like this: steak, mashed potatoes, vegetables and yet another salad.
And don't forget the evening snack before bed. Think cheese or slices of deli meat and a handful of nuts and fruit.
"It's crazy," Suzuki said, laughing. "I'm constantly feeding my face. It's not easy, that's for sure. And there's also a fine line between putting on 15 good pounds and putting on 15 pounds of pointless weight."
With the help of a nutritionist and a service that delivers his daily intake of food, Suzuki believes he's found balance. He got a jump start on the meal plan not long after season's end, beginning in October and gaining five or six pounds in the first five weeks. And even though a procedure on his wisdom teeth that called for a liquid diet essentially put him back at square one nearly two weeks ago, he's hoping he's on track again.
"I basically lost all the weight I had put on," he said. "I'm starting to feel better. I'm on my way. Last year, I was really focusing on repairing my body, kind of like physical therapy. I had a lot of sore muscles and joints, so last year was more about lighter weights, where as this year my body feels good, so I'm hammering out the weights and going a little heavier and trying to put on some thighs."
The 28-year-old Suzuki entered Spring Training this year at 193 pounds, but at one point in the season was down to 185 -- the lowest weight he can recall in years and a number much lower than the 200 pounds he carried coming into his first big league camp. So when he met with Oakland's training staff in September standing at 190 pounds, they devised a plan to get him to the 205-pound mark by February.
"My whole goal this offseason is to get to that target weight and possibly even more than that to give me some leeway," he said. "You look for ways to improve. Obviously, last year was definitely not one I'll really remember on a good note. And I'm not saying the reason I didn't perform last year was because of my weight. I'm not looking for excuses, just ways to improve.
"We had a great conversation and felt that maybe it could help me feel better. And if you feel better, maybe you perform better. Those two go together. I have my fair share of things to work on, but this is a step in the right direction to help myself improve as a player, and if you do that, you help your team improve."
The A's backstop hit just .237 with 44 RBIs in 134 games during the 2011 season -- the average representing a career low and the sixth lowest in the American League -- with a career-low .301 on-base percentage, which was the 10th-lowest mark in the league.
"I feel like my power numbers were there," said Suzuki, who tallied 14 home runs. "But the hits weren't coming consistently. I think I became too result-oriented. If I go up there and just think about hitting the ball hard instead of thinking I need to get a hit, it will probably be a lot easier on the mind and on the body to react. It's obviously easier said than done, but I really believe a lot of my struggles were mental, not mechanical."
The proof was in the film. Suzuki, admittedly not a big fan of watching too much video of his swings, studied the 2008-10 versions of himself.
"We looked at swings and compared them all," he said. "They didn't look different; they were the same. It was pretty incredible, and it kind of drove me crazy and put more thoughts in my head, but it was just mental."
Now removed from a frustrating season, Suzuki is gearing up for the third year of a four-year contract that takes him through 2013 and includes a club option for 2014. He has plenty of supporters, including manager Bob Melvin -- "He's one of the most positive thinkers I've ever been around," Suzuki said -- plus his equally active wife, Renee, and baby daughter Malia Grace.
"I feel great about where I am right now," he said. "I'm losing one pound a week. It's crazy I can't gain any more considering everything I'm eating, but hopefully the pounds add up and I can head into the season ready to go."
Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.