OAKLAND -- For all of the strengths that came packaged with Yoenis Cespedes, playing left field wasn't one of them.
Aware of this, the A's started him in center field, before deciding to shift the rookie to left in favor of keeping Coco Crisp in the middle of the outfield. Cespedes, naturally, responded the only way he knows how: improving at a rapid pace.
"I think it goes right along with the way he's evolved as a player here since the first day of Spring Training," manager Bob Melvin said on Saturday. "He's picked things up very quickly -- and once he feels comfortable, he's just on to the next thing. I think that's the way it is with left field, now. We were a little bit worried about it, but now he's just a good left fielder -- and it happened like that."
Cespedes, who leads all rookie outfielders with nine assists, is not only making routine plays in left with ease -- after struggling with routes in the early going -- but he's now also showcasing gems usually only seen from players who boast far more experience at the position. Even those, he's making look easy.
"That happens when you're a tough-minded kid and confident in what you do, and very serious about baseball each and every day and preparing in that fashion," Melvin said. "I don't think he worries about the defense anymore, and just goes out there and plays."
Cespedes' progression has turned the A's outfield into one of the best in the game, its defense tremendously aiding an already talented pitching staff.
"It's a big-time strength for us now," Melvin said. "We cover a lot of ground out there. You've seen what [Josh] Reddick's done, you know what Coco can do in center and now, all of a sudden, you've got a plus-athlete in left field who's comfortable there now. So we feel we have one of the better outfields, defensively, in the league now."
Cespedes, who is also hitting .286 with 22 homers and 80 RBIs in his first big league season, has been dealing with a bruised bone on the bottom of his right foot for a handful of weeks. Yet, he's remained in the lineup -- while maintaining he can rest in the offseason.
"You can tell it hurts him," Melvin said, "but he's a tough kid."