ARLINGTON -- Some hitters with big numbers in a particular ballpark will tell you they simply see the ball better there. Might that be the case, defensively, for Ryan Sweeney at Rangers Ballpark? After all, he's turned the outfield here into his own personal playground. Since making one of the best catches of the MLB season by scaling the center-field wall to rob Ian Kinsler of a late-game home run April 30, Sweeney has made spectacular catches the norm when the A's come to Texas.
He added to his Lone Star State highlight reel Monday with a diving grab in right field, but Sweeney said there isn't anything different about playing here that brings out the best in his glove work. "I don't know what it is," he said on Tuesday before the second game of a three-game series against the Rangers. "Obviously, I try to make every play I can. I guess I just get more [great] catches to make here for some reason." As many eye-popping grabs as Sweeney, 24, has made this year -- not only in Arlington, but across the Majors -- it's his all-around outfield skills that could end up winning him a Gold Glove some day. Blessed with a strong and accurate left arm, Sweeney entered Tuesday's game with 11 assists, good for fourth in the American League -- despite teams rarely testing him. He's also rock-solid fundamentally, having made three errors in 302 chances through Monday in 57 games in center field, 74 in right and six in left. "He's played so well defensively," Oakland manager Bob Geren said. "He's young, and people don't know him yet, but you're not going to find many people out there who play right field better than him." Geren said he likes Sweeney better in right field, where the manager said he's "exceptional," than in center, where he's "above average." Asked which right fielders in the AL he'd rank ahead of Sweeney defensively, Geren offered only Seattle's Ichiro Suzuki. When rocket-armed Vladimir Guerrero was mentioned, Geren said, "Vlad might have a slightly stronger arm, but when you factor in Ryan's ability to charge the ball and his accuracy, I'd put him right there with him." Sweeney has been swinging a hot bat of late, as well. He tied an Oakland record with three doubles and drove in a career-high four runs Monday night, pushing his batting average over the past 33 games to .336 with 18 extra-base hits. Oakland's leadoff man earlier in the season, Sweeney has spent a lot of time in the sixth and seventh spots in the order this year, but more recently he's been entrusted with the No. 3 spot, in which he made his 10th start of the season on Tuesday. "I like hitting third and sixth better than leadoff," Sweeney admitted. "Hitting third, you get more RBI opportunities; [leadoff man Adam] Kennedy and [No. 2 hitter] Rajai [Davis] are on base all the time." Sweeney isn't much of a home run threat, with six this year, but he's not prepared to adjust his offensive approach based on where he's hitting in the lineup. "I don't really want to change the type of player I am," he said. "That's usually when you start to see your average drop to .240 or something, and I want to be a high-average guy who hits the ball in gaps. "I just want to get stronger every year, and maybe that'll turn some of my doubles into home runs."
Mychael Urban is a national writer for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.