PHOENIX—Sitting on the bench, swatting sunflower seeds with a fungo bat.
Outfielder Corey Brown spent too much of his 2009 season doing just that, as his aching left knee forced him to the Double-A Midland disabled list three times. He even worked on shortening his swing as he assaulted the seeds.
By the time the season of his discontent had concluded, the 25-year-old knew he had to make some changes, both in the batter's box, and in his head.
So Brown went off to the Arizona Fall League, where he worked with Triple-A Sacramento hitting coach Brian McArn on developing a new stance. Rather than crouching back, the lefty-hitting Brown would begin more upright and put less pressure on his back knee.
The new stance worked in two ways. The knee remained completely healthy through 25 AFL games, and he improved as a hitter, batting .333/.397/.619 with six homers and a league-leading 28 RBIs.
"Corey is an unbelievable hitter. He has a real knack," McArn said. "He keeps his bat in the zone a long time. He was just consistent in the Fall League—he never had spurts where he struggled. He hit some balls the opposite way. He's a tremendous talent, and he kept his confidence up."
The confidence part was the other element of Brown's postseason work plan. He said he spoke with A's sports psychologists, who taught him how to deal with stress and bounce back from adversity to help limit slumps.
"I'm obviously someone who tends to strike out quite a bit (314 times in 259 pro games)," Brown said. "I start pressing and put pressure on myself. I worked on learning not to stress with people in scoring position."
A supplemental first-round pick from Oklahoma State in 2007, Brown played in just 66 games for Midland last year, batting .268/.349/.488 with nine homers between stints on the DL. He hammered 30 homers the previous year at two A-ball stops.
• Shortstop Josh Horton had elbow surgery that will delay his start to the season. He was not expected to arrive at spring training until after the minor league season commences. Other late arrivals to spring training included third baseman Jeff Baisley and outfielder Toddric Johnson, who both had shoulder surgery.
• Shortstop Gregorio Petit cleared waivers after being removed from the 40-man roster and was assigned to Sacramento. He had brief stints with Oakland last season as a backup infielder.