KANSAS CITY -- Kila Ka'aihue is now the A's starting first baseman. It's a job he was projected to have for Oakland's weekend opponent: the Royals.
Ka'aihue was once one of Kansas City's highest-rated prospects, a home run machine in the Minors. He crushed 37 long balls between two teams in 2008 and mashed another 52 over parts of three seasons at Triple-A Omaha. Hype followed Ka'aihue to the big leagues, but he couldn't find his hitting stroke once he got there and was traded to the A's last season after being supplanted at first base by another top prospect, Eric Hosmer.
A season later, Ka'aihue is now getting the opportunity to play at first base on a regular basis in Oakland. Preseason competitors Brandon Allen and Daric Barton are no longer on the roster, leaving regular playing time for Ka'aihue, who entered Sunday's series finale batting .231 with three homers and 12 RBIs. He went 0-for-3 with a walk in a 2-0 loss to the Royals.
"Now he's going to get consistent at-bats," manager Bob Melvin said. "I think you'll see his at-bats from game-to-game get better all the way through. Though, to this point in the season, he's done pretty well for us with not consistent at-bats, so you always think that once you start getting consistent at-bats, once you're in there every day, that the at-bats will get better and so will the production."
Ka'aihue said the increased role wouldn't change his approach.
"I've still got to go out there and play and play well," he said. "It could've very easily been me, so it doesn't change anything."
As for being back in Kansas City -- where Ka'aihue hit just .216 with 11 home runs over parts of three seasons -- the first baseman said he's just happy to reunite with his former teammates.
"I played here for a while. It was a lot of fun. I enjoyed myself here," Ka'aihue said. "I enjoyed the guys that I played with over there. More than anything, I was happy to see a bunch of them. Those are a lot of my good friends, and to come back and see them, that was the biggest thing."