A's Simplify Choice's Swing To Tone Down Strikeouts





OAKLAND—Scouts watched center fielder Michael Choice with a degree of apprehension as he took his swings at Texas-Arlington.

That swing was unorthodox. Choice could get the job done at the college level, but what would happen when he had to adjust to 95 mph fastballs and hard-breaking sliders?

"He had an unconventional swing," farm director Keith Lieppman said. "(Special assistant) Grady (Fuson) saw him and mentioned that there were things he'd need to change in his approach. There were a few different moving parts—a double tap, a leg kick, then the barrel of the bat had a lot of movement in it."

So Choice, whom Oakland drafted 10th overall last year, went to instructional league with a mission.

"He's got a nice little free-flowing approach that wound up being a very good combination," Lieppman said. He's pared down the movement: just a small leg kick."

The hope is that the modified swing will help cut down his strikeouts. Choice made a big impression last year at short-season Vancouver, batting .284/.388/.627 with seven homers—but he also struck out 43 times in 102 at-bats.

The 21-year-old Choice began this season with high Class A Stockton by going 13-for-58 (.224) with 23 whiffs in his first 15 games, though he had connected for three homers, including a 10th-inning walk-off shot.

Choice says that every day is a learning process, and he took much away from his session in Arizona. "The biggest thing was how to keep a routine: come to batting practice ready to go every day and learn something new."

Much of his time this spring has been spent working on defense. "In Arizona, the sun's a big factor," Choice said.

He also worked intently on coming in on the ball and developing better angles. "Defense was one of the biggest things I worked on. In college, I was just out there running around with no method. I had no idea what to do."

Choice made a big impression at major league spring training.

"I think what everyone saw was how athletic he is," Lieppman said. "He has so many ways he can help a team from both the offensive and defensive side. You don't often see a guy that has all those abilities."

A's ACORNS

• The A's held back outfielder Aaron Shipman in extended spring training because of tendinitis in his knee. He could be ready for low Class A Burlington in May.

• Lieppman reports that hard-hitting shortstop Grant Green showed improved defensive work in spring training.