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Barton glad A's have confidence in him

Barton getting confidence boost

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MINNEAPOLIS -- A's rookie first baseman Daric Barton entered Monday's opener of a three-game series against the host Twins with the lowest batting average (.211) among American League regulars.

It's a dubious distinction, to be sure, but the way he sees it, there's something to be said for still being a regular -- and not back in the Minors -- despite his struggles. Barton also leads American League first baseman with 10 errors.

"It's real big for my confidence that they're showing this kind of faith in me and my ability," he said while sitting in the visitors' dugout before batting practice at the Metrodome. "It means a lot to me that they're letting me try to work things out [in the Majors]."

Barton, who turned 23 on Saturday, was touted as a big part of Oakland's future from the December 2004 day that he was acquired in the blockbuster trade that send Mark Mulder to the Cardinals. And when he batted .347 in 18 games after being called up for his big league debut last September, the hype appeared more than justified.

Since batting .278 with a .372 on-base percentage this April, however, Barton has been riding an offensive roller coaster with more dips than upturns. He batted .139 with a .244 OBP in May, then bounced back with a .269 batting average and .348 OBP in June, but he's struggled mightily since the start of July.

He was batting .160 with a .300 OBP in July when he was placed on the disabled list with a strained neck after banging his head on the bottom of a swimming pool during an All-Star break incident, and since being activated from the DL on Aug. 1, he was batting .148 (8-for-54) through Sunday.

"I'm learning a lot about failure and how to handle it," Barton conceded. "This game isn't easy."

Asked if he might be a victim of the expectations he set for himself with his late-season performance in 2007, Barton hesitated.

"Early on I might have been trying too hard to live up to what I did last year," he said. "I haven't been as patient as I need to be, my walks aren't what they normally are, and I've been swinging at way too many pitchers' pitches.

"My mechanics are pretty much the same, but the big thing with me is pitch selection. I've been going outside of my zone too much this year, so that's the main thing I've been working on."

Hitting coach Ty Van Burkleo said Barton has been improving in that respect, even though the stat sheet might not show it.

"He's hitting the ball harder, more consistently, and he's waiting for his pitch a lot better," Van Burkleo said. "It's tough for a young guy like Daric, because when you struggle, you start thinking about getting hits instead of staying with what got you here, and that's where problems start. You get anxious and try to do things you can't do.

"But I like what I've seen from him lately. If he keeps working, it'll show up in the box scores soon enough. He's going to be a real good big league hitter."

Said Barton: "I'm happy with the way I've been swinging the bat lately, and I'm nothing but thankful for the opportunity the A's are giving me by sticking with me."

Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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