Griffin's remarkable rise inspiring A's confidence
Righty's first Cactus League start curiously follows MLB and postseason debuts
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- A.J. Griffin experienced another first Tuesday.
In a short career in which Griffin made his Major League debut in the Bay Bridge Series, won his first six decisions and pitched in the American League Division Series, the A's right-hander took part in a first more typical for that of a 25-year-old ballplayer: his Cactus League debut.
"It's quite a rise," A's manager Bob Melvin admitted after his club's 9-4 loss to the D-backs at Salt River Fields.
That Griffin pitched in the ALDS before the Cactus League is one way to measure how quickly he's arrived. So is his jump from Double-A Midland to Oakland's postseason roster last season. Another is to consider how far he's come in the eyes of teammate Josh Reddick.
Reddick has zero recollection of Griffin from last year's Spring Training.
Fast forward a year later, and the A's right fielder is talking about how a guy he didn't meet until Griffin's June callup inspires confidence in the guys behind him.
"He's proved he belongs in the rotation," Reddick said. "He lost only one game last year in his short stint, and he kept us in a lot of ballgames."
Whether Griffin makes the rotation will be decided in the coming weeks. He and fellow righty Dan Straily are battling to be the club's fifth starter, with Griffin's sharp two-inning performance Tuesday (one hit, three strikeouts) a nice first statement.
How Griffin earned confidence from Reddick and the rest of his teammates is easy to understand. He was nearly unhittable in his first 11 big league starts, posting a .202 average against with a 1.94 ERA, and it looked as though the A's had another young arm with superstar potential.
"He was so good," Melvin said. "And then your expectations are like, 'All right, this guy's going to go 40-0 in his career,' and that's probably not realistic."
Griffin scuffled in his final four regular-season starts, making it out of the fifth inning only once, as opponents started hitting him (.342 average against) and hitting him hard (7.27 ERA).
"The numbers at the end weren't as good as they were in the beginning, but he's definitely somewhere between," Melvin said. "He's a good pitcher, and he's going to get better and better."
Which version of Griffin is legit is a valid question. For now, he's not thinking about those things; about living up to the expectations some have because of his early success. Instead, he's focused on what he feels he needs to do.
He wants to work down in the zone and stay on top of his pitches better. He hopes to pitch to early contact, go deeper into games and not throw as many pitches.
He's also focused on his workouts, and said he's 100 percent after an early spring issue that involved his hips being "kind of tilted a little bit weird."
"I just try to focus on what makes me good and how I'm going to help the team the most, instead of worrying, 'Oh everybody expects me to do this or everybody expects me to do that,'" Griffin said. "Just more about the process in trying to get on the right track and to be able to have another awesome year like we did last year."
With his hips a little less weird and his short-term goals in mind, Griffin is confident he and the A's will find success.