Athletics' Stassi Hopes To Squash Injury Bug

OAKLAND—It seems every time Max Stassi gets a chance to play, he learns something new and finds a way to improve himself. The problem has been getting that chance to play.

Injury after injury has kept Stassi sidelined. Now he hopes for a big run of good health.

"I'm hoping for that break, and to get rid of the injury bug," Stassi said. "I'm really excited about (going to the Arizona Fall League). It's a big honor."

When the A's signed Stassi as their fourth-round draft pick in 2009, they thought they had a coup. Some saw Stassi as a first-round talent, but he appeared to be a tough sign, likely to head for college. The A's came in with a $1.5 million offer and the chance to play for an organization close to his Northern California home in Yuba City.

Stassi, 21, has shown potential but has not been able to stay on the field. His arm went bad in 2011, limiting him to 31 games, all as a DH. He needed surgery to repair the problems and says all is better now.

"The arm is really good," Stassi said. "The accuracy is a little off. The strength is coming back, but I've heard that accuracy is one of the last things to come."

The 5-foot-10, 205-pound Stassi made big strides with his bat this year, hitting .268/.331/.468 with 15 homers and 45 RBIs in 84 games for high Class A Stockton—before an oblique injury ended his season.

"I was finally piecing together some things, then I strained the oblique," he said. "I was working with (hitting coach) Brian McArn to simplify things, not overthink it. We made my swing one piece instead of disconnecting."

The small changes made for a big improvement, farm director Keith Lieppman said: "His plate discipline got better. He was able to lay off chasing the high fastball and chasing out of the zone. He started to use the whole field a lot better."

The A's praise Stassi as an enthusiastic, hard worker, intent on finding ways to better himself. While he sat out with his latest injuries, he grilled pitching coach Craig Lefferts on ways to improve his game-calling.

"He's high energy," Lieppman said. "Every time he gets hurt, he finds a way to get better. He just constantly works. That's the trademark of him, his work ethic."

A's Acorns

• The A's signed Venezuelan free agents Raymond Rivas, an outfielder from Caracas, and Jesus Zambrano, a righthander from Valencia. Both are 16.

• Oakland's instructional league roster includes all three of its first-round and supplemental high school infielders: Addison Russell, Daniel Robertson and Matt Olson. Top pick Russell progressed so quickly that he finished the season at low Class A Burlington.