Most of the last few springs has been good for Franklin Barreto. The summers? No so much.
Both he and the Oakland A’s seem to believe this time will be different.
Of course, it already has been. Spring training came to an abrupt end, thanks to the COVID-19 coronavirus, on March 12. At the time, Barreto was hitting .306 and six of his 11 hits were for extra bases.
None of the hits were homers. Then came the reboot when the A’s reassembled in Oakland last week. There haven’t been any official games yet, but in the sections of simulated games, Barreto had the first two homers off A’s bats.
That’s no longer the case, but Barreto continues to put up good at-bats. Manager Bob Melvin has pointed it out, and so have Barreto’s teammates.
“Barreto has really jumped out,” Chad Pinder, another possibility at second base, said. “It looks like he came straight from Spring Training to the season. He looks awesome.”
And then there’s this from first baseman Matt Olson, who has played for years in both the big leagues and minor leagues with Barreto.
“I’ve played with him for four or five years now. I’ve seen Frankie at his best,” Olson said. “He looks really good right now. We have a lot of guys who we can throw in there at second. It’s a good problem to have. Frankie is just cool and laid back. Two homers already, it’s what he does.”
Does that mean this is the summer for Barreto, who spent the downtime back in Florida? Maybe. In the Oakland camp, the place is full of second base candidates having good looks, including lefties Tony Kemp and Vimael Machin and the right-hander Pinder, who may be the single hottest hitter in the camp after three hits Sunday. And Pinder is the one calling Barreto’s Summer Camp “awesome.”
For Melvin’s part, he said Barreto has been “terrific.” If that continues for another week, look for Barreto to be in a starting platoon with Kemp, giving Oakland some left/right balance.
That’d be cool with Barreto, who hit .351 last spring then struggled to get any at-bats. He only got 57, and they were mostly forgettable as Barreto finished with a career-worst .123 average in just 23 games. Then, he was playing behind Jurickson Profar, who has since been traded. Before that, the roadblock was named Jed Lowrie, also no longer in green-and-gold.
And then just about a week ago, the A’s traded another second baseman, Jorge Mateo, to the Padres. Mateo was going to be in the mix, too. Now Barreto has one less hurdle to clear.
“I can go out and be positive and produce right from the beginning of the year,” Barreto said through an interpreter Monday. “I put a lot of pressure on myself (in recent years). All my career, I’ve always started the season slowly before finding my rhythm. This year is different. I have to find a way to stay in rhythm and be comfortable at the plate.
“I need to take time to relax, go one day at a time, one at-bat at a time.”
There is still going to be some kind of pressure. Barreto is out of options, which means if the A’s can’t take him off the roster without risking another club claiming him.
Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3
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