PHOENIX, Ariz. -- This spring, when Oakland Athletics prospect Addison Russell goes to his locker, he doesn't pull on a scrub-sized number in the 60s. No, this year – his second full season in professional baseball at the tender age of 20 – he's wearing No. 17. Manager Bob Melvin says this Addison Russell is different from the one he had a year ago.
"He doesn't look like he's too amped up, out there," Melvin says. "He looks like he's a pretty clear thinker, and has made all the defensive plays, had some good at-bats. It doesn't look like he's over-amped out there, whether it's excitement or nervousness."
Russell, too, is fully aware of how much he's grown as a ballplayer.
"Last year, I was the young guy, and I kind of felt like I was a misfit," Russell says. "I'm here for a reason, and Bob believes in me. My parents and my family believe in me, so I've just got to believe in myself, too. Now that it's my second year here, I think I am more relaxed, I fit in with the guys, I talk to all the guys and I think I belong."
He's more comfortable in his own skin, now, and it's shown, from the way he fields grounders to the way he takes his cuts in the cages.
"It's a little bit more laid back, now," Russell says. "I'm starting to figure things out. I'm more relaxed. I'm not hurrying anywhere. I just want to go out there, perform and have fun. I'm just more relaxed."
Russell has played in all five spring training games coming into Monday, but was only 1-for-10 at the dish, with three walks. In the field, Russell has made one error in 22.0 defensive innings.
"I've done pretty well," Russell says. "Everyone's starting to get their swings, and everyone's starting to get into their things, and starting to get into their routines, I guess, and I feel good about this year."
This spring isn't about stats as far as Russell is concerned, for the A's. It's about getting the youngster experience.
"There isn't any pressure on him at all," Melvin says. "I told him that, early in spring – just go out there and do your thing. We're not looking to give him too much instruction. He's a very talented guy. We just want him to go out there and play without the pressures of having to worry about making a team or something like that. He's getting a lot of playing time. He's backed up every single day, and will continue to do so, and has impressed."
Last season, Russell hit .275 for High-A Stockton in 107 games, with a .377 on-base percentage, 17 home runs, 10 triples and 29 doubles, after spending his first short professional season at the rookie and Low-A levels immediately following his first-round selection by the A's in 2012 with the 11th overall pick.
"I think I held up pretty well," says Russell. "It was a long season, and it was my first one, but I'm happy with the results. I'm looking forward to this year, too."
The light really went on for Russell, he says, during the Arizona Fall League. The 6-foot, 195-pounder – hit .282 during the fall with the Mesa Solar Sox, but over the last 10 games of the season, he hit a scorching .350 (14-for-40) with one triple, four doubles, five walks and two stolen bases in three tries.
"It feels like I was here two weeks ago, now that I'm back," he says.
Though Russell is scheduled to play on Monday in the later innings, Melvin expressed his desire to give him a day off soon, but, at 20, the tank is far from empty.
"At some point in time, I want to give him a day, because we keep running the same guys out there every day to back up, but he's young enough to where I don't think he's too sore at this point," Melvin laughs.
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