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Time Well Spent

OAKLAND–When Bobby Crosby received an invitation to big league spring training this season, he made a tough decision: He could use the time to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the good life, or he could take the opportunity to work intensely.

Crosby chose work.

He spent his time haunting Athletics infield coach Ron Washington to absorb every bit of information he could to improve his defense at shortstop. He fielded grounder after grounder in the Arizona sun, trying to gain that edge that would turn him into a big-time player.

"He has made tremendous improvement," farm director Keith Lieppman said. "His consistency is much better. He’s been real steady. He’s pretty sure-handed, that’s what everybody is seeing. He’s expanded his range to his left, and he’s been very accurate throwing."

Crosby has learned new angles to the ball. From youth leagues to college, infielders are taught to get in front of the bal, so if it ticks off the glove it will come into the player’s body and he’ll still have a chance for a play. In upper-level professional ball, a shortstop gains an advantage by cutting directly to the ball and taking it to the side. This demands sure hands and supreme concentration, but it saves valuable time. Under Washington’s tutelage, Crosby has developed this skill.

"I learned a lot from Wash; he was incredible," Crosby said. "Defense has always been my main focus; offense has come second. I’ve always considered myself a defensive player. When I got to spring training, my goal was not to make the team–I knew that wasn’t an option. Every day I was out for early work with Wash. They told me they were going to work my butt off when I got there. That was fine with me."

Crosby, 23, carried his improved defensive skills to Triple-A Sacramento, where he took over as the shortstop in his second full pro season. He was the A’s first-round pick in 2001 out of Long Beach State. Last year he hit .307-2-38 in 280 at-bats at Class A Modesto before moving up to Double-A Midland, where he hit .281-7-31 in 228 at-bats.

This season, Crosby was hitting .213 halfway through April. But he quickly got untracked and was up to .272-7-23.

The A’s have pushed Crosby, and with a reason. The organization does not expect to re-sign shortstop Miguel Tejada, which could force Crosby to the majors as soon as next season. Crosby tries to avoid the issue.

"I really decided not to focus on what he’s (Tejada) doing," he said. "He’s a heck of a player. I have no control over what he’s doing. All I can do is work hard and be ready if an opening comes up."

A's Acorns

• Righthander Steve Obenchain was hit in the head by a ball while shagging flies in the outfield during batting practice, sustaining a concussion that sent him to the sidelines for more than three weeks. Righthander Mike Wood also has been sidelined, by a sore elbow. What began as a slight ache has not gone away, and the A’s are trying to determine what treatment may be necessary.

• Center fielder Marcus McBeth received a special tutorial at extended spring after being moved from high Class A Modesto to low Class A Kane County. McBeth worked with hitting coach Dave Hudgens and other staff members to retool his swing. McBeth hit .130 with no extra-base hits in 54 at-bats at Modesto.

• Previous organization report: Mike Rouse

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