Russell getting the hang of Cal League

A's prospect heating up; smacks homer, delivers two doubles

By Josh Jackson / Special to | May 19, 2013 7:19 PM ET

On Sunday afternoon, Addison Russell reminded everybody -- including himself -- who he is.

The Athletics' top prospect -- who'd been struggling at the plate -- homered and doubled twice to lead Class A Advanced Stockton to a 5-0 victory over Lake Elsinore.

"When things are going the wrong way, it's because I'm trying be someone I'm not, trying to take too big a swing," Russell said.

His 3-for-4 performance was the third multiple-hit effort in his last four games as he's lifted his batting average from .171 on Monday to .206 at week's end. Russell was drafted by the A's with the 11th overall pick last year, and with only a half-season of pro ball under his belt, the 19-year-old shortstop was assigned to the California League to start this year.

His recent success is not the result of some new trick or lucky talisman.

"No, it's just trying to be myself," said Russell, who also stole a base. "I believe in myself and I know I'm capable of getting the job done. I'm not batting what I'm used to batting, so that's been something for me to deal with. But I'm starting to get back to basics, just believing in myself.

"I know I don't have a bad swing. It's just mental, trying to do too much. I just have to stay within myself and get the job done. I try not to pay attention to the numbers or the stats right now."

Russell admitted, however, that the tough start to the season has occasionally evoked ugly thoughts, like the possibility of a demotion to Class A Beloit.

"That's kind of in the back of the head, you know? And that would be a setback," he said. "But this is a good organization. They're going to find the best spot for you. They make the right calls and the right decisions. It's going to be in every player's mind, but you kind of have to ignore it -- just play your game."

His game certainly was good enough for the Cal League on Sunday. Russell followed Bobby Crocker's leadoff single in the first inning by reaching on a fielder's choice. By the time Max Muncy had popped up for the second out, Russell noticed an opportunity to get into scoring position and seized it with his fourth steal in five tries.

"I thought I had a pretty good shot. He seemed to be taking awhile to get to the plate," Russell said. "And when he kicked over, I saw that he had a tick that he was doing every time, so I thought I knew when he was going to come over."

Russell was stranded that inning, but he guaranteed himself a trip across the plate in the third by knocking a first-pitch fastball over the center-field fence for his fifth homer of the season and fourth in nine games.

"I was just trying not to do too much, just give back what the pitcher was giving me," he said. "That was a fastball, high and outside, and I went with it."

The Florida native stuck with what worked in his at-bats in the fifth and seventh, both of which ended with doubles.

"That was the same thing," he said. "I was staying within myself, staying back on the pitches and letting my hands do the work."

During the offseason, Russell told that he intended to focus on learning from coaches and more experienced players this year. That's remained an important part of his daily game plan, and it's been working for him.

"I think that, mentally, I'm getting better. My skill sets are getting better," he explained. "I try to learn something new every day and stay with my approach. Good things will happen. There will be bad days, but good things are going to happen.

"On the defense side, it's always been a natural thing for me. But, again, there's always stuff to work on. I'm working on improving in between plays, backhand, forehand. ... I'm trying to improve my game all-around, especially on the defense side. I don't think I've reached my full potential at short. There's always something you can achieve, always something you can learn from looking at somebody else."

With the cool start seemingly behind him, Russell feels he has something to prove -- that he is the player he knows himself to be.

"I want to perform with these guys and show them I can perform like I know I can," he said. "If I can do that, they'll see that I deserve to be in this league."

Russell's big hits, along with homers from Myrio Richard and Tony Thompson, provided more than enough support for Stockton. Starter Deyvi Jiminez allowed three hits and struck out five over four innings and T.J. Waltz (4-0) yielded one hit over three frames for the win.

For Lake Elsinore, Padres No. 9 prospect Cory Spangenberg singled, walked and recorded his 14th stolen base.

Josh Jackson is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

View More