Sogard Tidies Second-Base Play After Trade to A's





OAKLAND—When second baseman Eric Sogard joined the Athletics, he had a reputation as an accomplished hitter with defensive limitations. So he went to work to change all that.

"He has made great strides on defense," farm director Keith Lieppman said. "He's a self-motivated kid. He realized he needed to improve, and he did."

Sogard showed so much improvement that the A's called him up in September. But those improvements did not come easily. The 24-year-old turned up the heat in his offseason workouts, concentrating on speed and agility.

"A lot of times, earlier, I tried to do the extra effort and it got out of control," he said. "That's when the errors started happening. I had to learn not to let the game speed you up. Just relax and do what you can do."

A former College World Series star for Arizona State, Sogard came to Oakland in an offseason trade with the Padres, part of the deal that landed Kevin Kouzmanoff. A second-round pick in 2007, Sogard had fallen out of favor in San Diego, only to be afforded a new start in Oakland.

Triple-A Sacramento manager Tony DeFrancesco raved about Sogard's defensive improvement and said that he expects him to make his share of diving plays with improved first-step quickness.

In addition, Sogard added to his value by spending a month at shortstop and 10 games at third base. "I don't have a problem moving wherever they want to put me," he said.

A .295 hitter in four minor league seasons with more walks (237) than strikeouts (209), the lefty-hitting Sogard could be a perfect fit for the offensively-challenged A's. This season, he batted .300/.391/.407 with 28 doubles in 514 at-bats for the River Cats, showing a line-drive stroke but little power.

Sogard prefers to wear glasses instead of contact lenses, citing better vision. But that didn't stop his Oakland teammates from jokingly calling him Harry Potter and, during rookie hazing on the final flight to Seattle, presenting him with a wizard's costume to wear out of the clubhouse.

A's ACORNS

• Low Class A Kane County catcher Max Stassi showed signs of wearing down toward the end of his debut season, so the A's sent him home early from instructional league.

• Lefty reliever Cedrick Bowers' season ended on the operating table when he had Tommy John surgery. The 32-year-old saw action in 14 games for the A's this season after spending most of the previous 14 seasons in the minors, including two-year stays in both Japan and Korea.