On Monday, the Stockton Ports clinched a spot in the California League post-season. One of the Ports' main catalysts this year has been lead-off hitter Myrio Richard. After a slow start to the season triggered by an oblique strain that cost him most of the month of April, Richard has been a force at the top of the line-up.
It took Richard some time to recover from the injury, which happened right before Opening Day.
"It actually took quite a lot of time after [to feel healthy]. Probably three or four weeks after I came back from the injury before I started feeling better," Richard said.
"I still had some soreness when I came back. I still wasn't 100 percent, but I was good enough to go and was ready to get out there."
The worst part of the injury for Richard, however, was sitting on the sidelines as his Ports' teammates got the season underway.
"It was frustrating to come here and get hurt the very first day we had batting practice. Working so hard to stay healthy in spring training so I could come out and play, it was definitely frustrating but I was cautious with it and was able to get back in there," Richard said.
Overall, the Oakland A's 2009 ninth-round pick is batting .294 with a team-high 27 stolen bases for Stockton. Since the All-Star break, Richard is batting .306 with an 826 OPS and 16 stolen bases. The biggest improvement in his game since the break has been his selectively at the plate, something that he made a conscious effort to improve. He has walked 26 times in 60 post-All-Star break games for a .383 OBP.
In addition to being more selective, Richard points to regular pre-game and pre-at-bat routines as keys to his second-half resurgence.
"I've been trying to be consistent night in and night out, really doing the same thing and not changing anything when I do struggle. Keeping consistent with my routines," Richard said.
For much of the season, Richard has been the man at the top of the Stockton line-up. It is a position that he relishes.
"Being lead-off, you want to be that spark, just to get the team going. I feel like when I go, we go. You want to have that type of mentality as a lead-off hitter. Do your job and get on-base and then be aggressive [on the bases]," Richard said.
That aggressiveness on the base-paths has led to a career-high in stolen bases this year. He stole only 11 in 18 chances with Low-A Kane County last season.
"I knew I could run last year. I didn't really have a lot of stolen bases, so I didn't really utilize that part of my game, but now I'm just being more aggressive on the base-paths. Taking my pitch and going with it," Richard said.
Speed runs in Richard's family. His older brother Michael was an Oakland A's farmhand from 2007 until midway through the 2010 season. While with the A's, the elder Richard stole 87 bases, including 35 in 85 games with Kane County in 2008. Speed-wise, Myrio doesn't take a back-seat to his older brother, however. When asked who would win a footrace between the two, Myrio hinted that he'd cross the finish line first.
"We have always been about the same speed, but I've always had the mentality that if you put someone in front of me, I'm going to beat them," Richard said with a laugh.
Having an older brother blaze a trail through the A's system has made the jump to the pros easier for Myrio.
"He's been through all three levels that I've been through. He definitely gave me the heads up of what to look for and what I should be prepared for. I had a little bit of an advantage from that," Richard said.
Last season, Richard was part of a Kane County team that advanced to the second round of the Midwest League playoffs. He is looking forward to a return trip to the post-season with many of the same teammates he played with in Kane County in 2010.
"We've got basically the same group we've had all year and it's basically the same group from last year, so that's a big plus for us," Richard said.
"Everybody knows everybody. We all know our roles and we know how everyone fits in. There aren't really any problems or anything. We just go with the flow."