Red-hot Olson no longer just a platoon player

Rookie homers again Sunday, has hit 17 in first 47 games in Majors

Red-hot Olson no longer just a platoon player

OAKLAND -- Just last week, in the middle of Matt Olson's home run tear, A's manager Bob Melvin defended his decision to start the first baseman against a left-hander, saying, "We don't see him down the road as a platoon guy."

Olson, it seems, has definitively shed that label in no time, finding himself in the lineup on an everyday basis.

"It's an easy one right now," Melvin said Sunday morning.

Olson was even in the lineup against 2015 American League Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel. The rookie first baseman drew a start against the tough Astros lefty in Sunday's 10-2 win, going hitless in his first two at-bats before reaching base in the sixth on a critical walk that loaded the bases. The A's went on to score three times in the inning against Keuchel, who was knocked out with two outs in the frame.

Then Olson stood in against lefty reliever Tony Sipp in the eighth, sending a two-run homer to right field, giving him an American League-leading 13 long balls since Aug. 11.

Olson's on-base skills are undoubtedly a powerful tool, but it's his plus power that's turning heads these days. Still just 23 years old, he's up to 40 home runs total between Oakland (17) and Triple-A Nashville (23) this year.

"I know my abilities, and I know I'm capable of doing what I've been doing," said Olson. "Did I necessarily see coming out of the chute like that? No, I don't think anybody can plan for that. But I'm happy with where I am and where my swing is and how I've been feeling."

When Olson returned from Nashville on Aug. 8 following the trade of first baseman Yonder Alonso, the A's planned on playing him in a platoon with Ryon Healy at the position. But he's since forced their hands.

"It seems like he gets good swings against all lefties, and the defense is sensational," Melvin said. "It's tough to take him out of the lineup right now."

"I think anybody wants to be in there every day," Olson said. "I've never had an issue facing lefties. I guess my numbers might be a little different, but I feel comfortable doing it. Just to be able to get into a routine and keep a rhythm, especially the way I've been feeling this year, I've been feeling really good at the plate, to be able to keep that going is big."

Olson is essentially continuing what he started in Nashville this season, simplifying his swing to get the most out of his legs; last year, he said, he got into a bad habit of fighting his own body, which led to cutting himself off from a clear path to the ball. He had to work overtime to generate the kind of power he's so easily producing now.

"Obviously there is a difference in the levels of competition," Olson said. "I am aware of that, but I've been approaching my at-bats the same way and getting pretty similar results, and I'm just trying to keep it going."

"He kind of is what the A's have always been -- the high-on-base, high-walk threat," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "I think he's started to handle left-handed pitching a little bit more, and he's doing some things that are showing some growth."

Jane Lee has covered the A's for since 2010. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.