PHOENIX -- Oakland's once-hyped outfield prospect is suddenly 28 years old with only 59 days of Major League service time on his side.
This isn't quite how Michael Taylor envisioned his career path, yet here he is again, back for his fifth big league camp. Taylor's never made an Opening Day roster, and the chances of it happening this year remain slim, even though he is out of options. Sam Fuld is ahead of him on the depth chart, and even Fuld might not make the team if the A's choose to stick with only four outfielders.
Taylor knows this, but is motivated as ever to make a mark on an organization that gave up former first-round Draft pick Brett Wallace for him. Both were considered some of the game's best hitting prospects at the time of their 2009 trade but neither has panned out.
Taylor isn't done writing his story, though.
"You know what? Mike I think has got a different outlook this year," said manager Bob Melvin. "He's kind of been a little bit back of the pack for us. I mean, he's gotten some opportunities but never the type of opportunity that would potentially allow him to make a team. I know it doesn't look like he's at the forefront, but he is out of options and we do value him.
"You look at the numbers he puts up in Triple-A, and it would suggest that he can contribute here. So he's going to get quite a few at-bats this spring, as he is now, and my feeling is we're going to see a different guy, I really do."
Hours after Melvin said this, Taylor had himself a three-hit day.
"I have to give Bob a lot of credit," said Taylor, a .292 career hitter in the Minors but just 10-for-74 in the big leagues. "He actually called me in today and talked to me about just playing. He was right. I can't really worry about my situation or what's going on, or thinking about a thousand different situations that could come up. I just have to play and enjoy it, and he kind of gave me a vote of confidence and it relaxed me a bit. I kind of just felt free to play, and that's when I'm at my best."
"He has the ability to do that every day," said Melvin. "Hopefully this is a springboard for him, getting three good at-bats like that. This should give him some confidence."
Taylor has been tinkering with his swing since the offseason, mostly trying to use his legs more, and on Tuesday he featured a swing he said resembled one "somewhere in between some of the things I've worked on this offseason and how I've always been."
"Today is probably as good as it has felt all spring," he continued. "Yesterday, I hit about 250 balls by myself at the end of the day and this morning got in there with Chili Davis in the cages.
"Today I was able to refocus on what's important. I'm fortunate enough to still have a job and that I can play baseball. This is my eighth year in pro ball. I'm just going to go out and enjoy these days and not think about all the external factors around the game."
Jane Lee is a reporter for MLB.com This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.