OAKLAND—Scouts could only shudder when they watched Mike Spina swing a bat.
The 6-foot-1, 220-pound first baseman could hit home runs, and hit them in bunches. But the Athletics knew they had work to do with Spina, their 11th-round pick from Cincinnati in 2009.
They had to calm his hands and cure him of his metal-bat swing, so that the 24-year-old could have a direct path to the ball.
"He had a really bad habit of dropping his hands and trying to get them back up in time to deliver the barrel," farm director Keith Lieppman said. "He would drop his hands almost to his waist, then have them up at his ears.
"He knew (the swing adjustment) was the right thing to do, and he continued to persevere, even with some failure involved," Lieppman said of Spina, who spent most of his first pro summer with low Class A Kane County.
In 514 at-bats for high Class A Stockton last year, Spina batted .253/.348/.444 with 23 homers and 88 RBIs, balancing 142 strikeouts with 64 walks.
"I struggled early, then halfway through the season it started to click," Spina said. "I was working with hitting instructors (Greg) Sparks and (Tim) Garland, and we watched a lot of video, breaking down my swing. They told me what I had to do."
A righthanded hitter, Spina batted .359 with 44 homers in two years at Cincinnati, so his bad-hands habit did not hinder him against amateur pitching.
In addition to changing his swing, Spina also shifted from third to first base last season.
"Moving to first was a little challenging at first," he said, "but I put in a lot of early work. (Stockton manager) Steve Scarsone would go out early and work with me."
Lieppman concurred: "He's recognized that in today's game, you can't be a one-dimensional player, and he's put a lot of effort into his first-base play."
• To the delight of the A's, Double-A Midland general manager Monty Hoppel won Baseball America Minor League Executive of the Year honors. "We have been very pleased with our affiliation with the RockHounds," Lieppman said.
• The A's traded speedy Triple-A utilityman Corey Wimberly to the Pirates for righthander Ryan Kelly, a 23-year-old reliever who struck out 75 batters in 75 innings last year for low Class A West Virginia. He hasn't yet advanced to high Class A in four seasons.