Canha adjusting, improving in first big league season

Canha adjusting, improving in first big league season

OAKLAND -- Growing up, Mark Canha was a shortstop and a pitcher, but once he got to high school, everyone wanted to play short, so he migrated to the outfield.

In Canha's sophomore season at University of California-Berkeley, the team needed a first baseman, so he made the switch.

Canha considers himself very versatile, a trait that has served him well in his rookie season with the A's. That versatility has led to more playing time, which he's turned into consistent success of late. Canha has played 49 games in left, 41 at first, three in right and one at third this season.

"People always ask me what my favorite is or what's your best position. I'm a hitter," Canha said, smiling.

After hitting .208 in July, Canha has posted a .353 average in August. He's played in eight consecutive games and is a fresh off a stellar two-game series against the Dodgers in which he went 6-for-9 with three runs and two RBIs.

Though Canha said he'd never be one to complain about playing time, he acknowledged playing every day helps considerably as far as getting into a rhythm.

"When you get in the box, you're more comfortable," Canha said. "You're not as nervous or shaky, because you just did this yesterday."

Canha said the biggest adjustment he's made recently is trying to stay back on the ball a bit longer. In certain situations, he now realizes going the other way and not trying to do too much can be the best approach.

Canha is slightly disappointed he has only nine homers, but he's made sure to put that in perspective and remain patient at the plate.

Though Canha knew big league pitching would be a significant step up from the pitching in Triple-A, he admits he didn't know just how filthy certain pitchers could be. Ups and downs are inevitable, he says, and the most important thing is to not get flustered and keep a steady routine.

"You just have to keep it simple, stay even-keeled," Canha said. "It's a marathon. It's a long season."

Canha has arguably been the A's most consistent hitter in August, and manager Bob Melvin has been impressed by the rookie's power, versatility and motor.

"He got off to a hot start, had a little bit of a tough time, and he's doing a lot better again right now," Melvin said.

One thing that's puzzled Canha this season is his struggles against left-handed pitching. He said it isn't something he can really explain.

In theory, Canha, a righty, should be better against lefties, but that's far from the case. He's hitting .286 with nine home runs, 35 RBIs and a .514 slugging percentage in 185 at-bats against right-handers, compared to .188 with no homers, six RBIs and a .208 slugging percentage in 96 at-bats versus lefties.

On Tuesday, though, Canha recorded two hits off perhaps baseball's finest southpaw, Clayton Kershaw, piecing together what he called the most memorable Major League game he's played on a personal level.

Canha has become an everyday player of late, partially due to injuries and partially as somewhat of a trial run. His future with the club remains uncertain, but he hopes he's done enough to cement his spot as an integral part of the team's long-term plans.

"I hope they love me," Canha said. "I love being here. My wife and I consider this home, and [we] hope for a long, prosperous career in Oakland. That would be the best possible scenario for me."

Trevor Hass is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.