Rookie first baseman has been on a tear since August callup
By Ben Harris
PHILADELPHIA -- While the baseball world remains infatuated with the exploits of Phillies rookie first baseman Rhys Hoskins, the Oakland A's have a first-year first-base phenom of their own in Matt Olson, who introduced himself to Philadelphia in a big way early in Friday's 4-0 win over the Phillies.
In the blink of an eye, Olson dismantled a center-cut two-seamer from Mark Leiter, sending it screaming off the bat at 109.4 mph, according to Statcast™, and into the farthest rows of the second deck in right field at Citizens Bank Park. Not many balls go there.
Olson was called up twice early in the season, neither time to play an everyday role while blocked by Yonder Alonso's All-Star pace. But on Aug. 8, two days after the A's shipped Alonso to the Mariners, Olson was recalled for a third time and has quickly staked his claim to first base.
Although the last callup is most important, the first played a vital role in Olson's ability to flash his future potential as the A's first baseman.
Despite playing in just one game in that first weeklong callup in April, Olson began to feel an offseason swing alteration settling in. He moved his hands out away from his body, getting them out of his own way, as it were. Moving his hands out allowed for a cleaner, more direct path to the ball. It didn't click right away, as most adjustments don't -- "It definitely felt weird," he said -- but some time away from Triple-A Nashville helped immensely.
"I came up here in April for a little short stint and went back down, and when I went back down it was one of those things where I didn't look back," Olson said. "I was struggling in Nashville before that and I came up here and wasn't playing much, took a deep breath, got some work in, and went back down, and I've felt pretty good since."
Olson's homer Friday came from the cleanup spot, his second appearance in that role. Both times he's left the yard. It's not a long-term move, just a necessity as the A's Khris Davis, keeper of 39 homers this season, is out on paternity leave.
While the four-hole may be Davis' in the long run, the A's look to have found another solid middle-of-the-order bat to use in tandem with Davis, who just a week ago was leading the American League in homers. The heart of the order is bright in Oakland.
Ben Harris is a reporter for MLB.com based in Philadelphia and covered the A's on Friday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.