OAKLAND -- While his teammates have put together an encouraging offensive stretch, Cliff Pennington is in the midst of a frustrating one.
The A's shortstop, recently relegated to a platoon role with Brandon Hicks, entered Thursday's contest against the Yankees with four hits in his last 45 at-bats, spanning 16 games. He has none since the start of the second half, and his hitless performance Wednesday dropped his season average below the Mendoza Line to .199.
Pennington's .546 OPS is worst among all qualifying Major League shortstops, and his slugging percentage (.285) and on-base percentage are second-lowest in the American League.
"If we knew the exact recipe, certainly we would've addressed it," manager Bob Melvin said. "I think he's just grinding on himself pretty hard. He's used to hitting a lot higher, he's used to contributing a lot more on the offensive end. It's just kind of snowballing on him, and he's finding it tough to get out of it right now."
The switch-hitting Pennington has always been one of the club's streakier players, but his struggles have been season-long this time around, and they could ultimately influence the A's front office to reach out for middle-infield help -- Toronto's Yunel Escobar could be of interest -- should the club still be in contention just before the Trade Deadline.
Pennington, 27, is arbitration-eligible at season's end, so the A's aren't attached to him financially. They've always valued his defensive skills, but his offensive numbers will have to improve if he wants to regain a full-time role.
"You'd like to think that a good couple games, he'll be on a roll," Melvin said. "He's continually working toward that. He's as hard of a working guy as we have here right now, he just hasn't had the consistency or the confidence that normally he would have over the course of a season. It's just been a grind for him."