April 23, 2013

Brandon Moss: 'I knew I could play up here'

By Kevin Thomas kthomas@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

BOSTON — For all the work, all the battling through doubts, all the fights to shed labels, Brandon Moss finally is a bonafide major leaguer.

But there was somewhere else he wanted to be Monday, rather than Fenway Park.

"I was home for a couple of days. I am definitely itching to get back to see them," Moss said.

"Them" is wife Allison, son Jayden, age 3, and son Brody, born only a week ago.

"I'm getting pictures sent to me and it's killing me," Moss said. "But it's a great feeling."

Moss, 29, has plenty to feel good about. The former Portland Sea Dogs slugger is in his second season with the Oakland A's. He entered Monday's game batting .286 with two home runs and an OPS of .812. He started Monday's game at first base, batting third.

"There were times I figured I wouldn't get back (to the major leagues)," Moss said.

Pro baseball is fickle. Mess up when you get a chance, and who knows if you will get another.

Moss was drafted out of high school by the Red Sox and he came to Portland in 2005 at the age of 21. He batted .268 and returned in 2006. His average improved to .282 (12 home runs) and he was the MVP of the Eastern League championship series, won by the Sea Dogs.

Moss, an always-joyful personality with his Georgia accent, moved on to Pawtucket the next two years. He got occasional call-ups to Boston.

But when the Red Sox wanted to rid themselves of Manny Ramirez in July of 2008, Moss was included in a three-way trade with the Dodgers and Pirates. Moss went to Pittsburgh.

He got his chance with the lowly Pirates, playing all of 2009 in the majors. But Moss batted .236 with seven home runs.

"I could never find any consistency. Never," Moss said. "I really had no idea what I was doing. To put it modestly, I was over-matched."

There were two problems. Moss could not hit off-speed pitches. And his swing was no longer recognizable to himself. He spent most of 2010 in the minors.

"Instead of getting bitter, I changed some things to the way I used to do them," Moss said. "Instead of working on gimmicks and mechanical tweaks and changes, I just tried to find my natural swing and my natural stance and let it work from there.

"Once I found that, I started being more consistent."

But now Moss felt he was known as a "Four-A" -- a nickname for those who play well in Triple-A, but not in the majors.

"Even though I didn't believe I was a Four-A player, I figured that was what I was labeled as," Moss said. "I knew I had the ability. I've always hit. It was a matter of the opportunity and the right mindset.

"(But) at the time, I never thought I'd get back (to the majors). And if I got back here, it would be the guy who bounces around, comes up with the September call-ups."

Moss played in Triple-A with the Phillies in 2011 (September call-up for five games) and signed a minor league contract with Oakland in 2012. Moss didn't think much of his chances.

"Honestly, I was playing for an opportunity to play in Japan," Moss said. "But some things worked out when I got an opportunity here."

The A's had Moss play first base as well as outfield in the minors (something he also did in Pawtucket). When Oakland wanted more offense, the A's summoned Moss to the majors on June 6. He was getting another chance.

"One thing I told myself when I got the opportunity, was just be yourself," Moss said. "I was always what somebody else wanted me to be -- was I standing where they want me to stand? Is my bat where they want it to be? -- I was tired of that. I decided to be myself.

"That freedom of not worrying about what people think once I let that go, it was just playing baseball, you know."

Moss homered in his second game with Oakland, then hit .291 with 21 homers in 84 games.

Now his sons Jayden and Brody won't have to hear about how dad played in Japan, or how he had to give up his major league dream.

It's very rewarding," Moss said. "In the back of my mind, I knew I could play up here."

 

Kevin Thomas can be contacted at 791-6411 or at kthomas@pressherald.com

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