Smith eager to contribute to A's crowded outfield

Smith eager to contribute to A's crowded outfield

PHOENIX -- Last season in an outfield core of five players, Seth Smith was fourth on the depth chart, with Jonny Gomes bringing up the rear.

But with the designated hitter slot, the crowded outfield did not feel so congested. Smith appeared in 125 games in 2012, coming off the bench on just 24 of those occasions.

This season, however, with Gomes in Boston, Smith figures to drop a spot on the totem pole behind Chris Young, whom the A's acquired in the offseason from Arizona.

Yet even with a measurably diminished role on the horizon, Smith still fits into his club's plan for 2013, giving Oakland considerable depth in the outfield.

"I'm not 100 percent sure how it'll play out, but we'll find a way to get them all at-bats," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "We'll probably have a better idea as we get along."

So far this spring, Smith has found himself on base more than half the time he has come to the plate, batting 8-for-16 with three walks. He singled and drove in a run Sunday against the D-backs.

"I'm pleased with everything so far," Smith said. "I'm moving in the right direction, and everything is building up to April 1."

Smith is not sure what to credit for his hot start to A's camp, but even if the hits were not coming, he would still feel confident with where he is at this point.

"There's really nothing to read into it, results-wise," he said. "You can look at someone's swing and see where they are, but as for batting averages, they don't mean anything. I hit just enough in the offseason where I felt like I wouldn't get injured when I got to Spring Training. You just take it from there. The pitchers are trying to find their stuff, so you see a lot of fastballs early on."

Despite Smith's modesty, the early success has come as little surprise to Melvin, who throws batting practice to Smith every day and has been impressed with his work ethic.

"He's got power to all fields, and he's a perfectionist in his preparations on the hitting end," Melvin said. "If he hits two balls in batting practice where he doesn't want to hit them, he gets upset. Whether it's using the whole field a little more or looking for certain pitches, I think the reason behind that is he is always trying to get better."

Last season, Smith batted just .240 in 383 at-bats and fought with himself to fix it, so this year he is trying to take the pressure off and not worry about every detail as much.

"I have kind of taken a less-is-more approach to this spring," he said. "It seems to be putting my swing in a better spot, taking fewer swings but doing them with more purpose. I've found it to be rewarding."

Regardless of what kind of playing time the 30-year-old sees in 2013, Smith appears OK with his role on the A's moving forward.

"We have a really good outfield, and we have a lot of guys, but I know I'm part of this team," he said. "We'll be good."

Tyler Emerick is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.