For Taylor, A Trip Not In Vain

WEST SACRAMENTO - With Coco Crisp battling an ear infection, the Oakland A's had hot-hitting Sacramento River Cats' outfielder Michael Taylor fly out with the team to Baltimore Thursday where they began their road trip in case Crisp needed to be placed on the DL.

As it turns out, Taylor flew across the country for a single session of batting practice and returned to Sacramento Saturday after Crisp was deemed healthy enough to play.

"He felt OK, played the game, got my Southwest flight back here, made a couple stops, and got back at about 5 o'clock," Michael Taylor said. "About 14 hours of flying in a 48-hour period."

While that's a lot of traveling for just one session of batting practice, the A's making Taylor the first option for a promotion of all the talented Sacramento outfielders is a testament to the kind of season he has had in 2012.

Before his trip, the 6'5" outfielder was hitting .366/.393/.573 with a pair of homers and 17 RBIs in 19 games. While appearing in 11 games with Oakland when rosters expanded last September, Taylor struggled both at the plate and with the glove. He said the game is much faster in the big leagues, but he was able to learn what it takes to become a major league regular during his September call-up.

"I also know I'm going to have to do things I do well, really well," he said.

"Trying to do what I don't do well OK, isn't going to get me there and keep me there. Trying to pull homers just isn't going to work for me. I need to do what it is that I think I'm good at, and that's hitting line drives and driving in runs."

Taylor is the remaining player the A's received from a series of trades involving Huston Street, Carlos Gonzalez and Matt Holliday, and thus Taylor has been a player in the spotlight since he was acquired by the A's. Taylor has been, in some ways, a victim of his own past success after putting up outstanding numbers in Philadelphia's organization, posting an OPS above 939 with the Phillies from A-ball to Triple-A before coming to Oakland.

Since then, Taylor has put up unspectacular numbers and hasn't been able to crack the A's major league roster, with the exception of last September's stint. Over the past two years, the A's have acquired a slew of more veteran outfielders. That glut of veteran talent pushed Taylor back onto the Triple-A Sacramento roster this April for the third consecutive season. In 2011, he got off to a slow start due to a wrist injury that kept him sidelined until mid-May. Afterward, he went on to post an 816 OPS with 16 homers and 64 driven in during 93 games.

The knock on Taylor since his arrival to the organization has been the way he has changed his swing mechanics, trying to become the power hitter the A's desperately need. This year, he has focused on going back to the mechanics that made him one of the top hitting prospects in baseball with the Phillies.

"This was the first time in a while I've had a healthy off-season. A lot of it was more of a healthy change, just getting back to who I think I am as a hitter," Taylor said.

"It's one of those things. Obviously, it's no secret that they want more home runs out of me. I tried to make adjustments and tinker a little bit, but at the end of the day I was a little less effective. The numbers weren't bad."

In 2012, Taylor is part of an outfield in Sacramento packed with talent. The team's hottest hitter, Brandon Moss, brings with him 249 games of major league experience and a .338/.415/.592 slash line this season. Once considered a top prospect for the Boston Red Sox, Moss understands the burden of expectations and how they can affect someone in Taylor's shoes.

"We had a conversation in spring about not pressing," Taylor said of Moss.

"He said, ‘You don't need to press. Just be that guy. Don't try to be anyone else, or be anyone else's version of who you already are. Be who you know you are.' That was comforting because he's got big league time and I think he was in the same situation when he was in Pittsburgh when they wanted him to be something he's not."

With the A's hovering around the .500 mark, it's unclear whether or not they will keep the current big league roster intact at the trading deadline. Crisp is an obvious candidate to be moved if the team were to fall out of contention over the next few months, making a more permanent promotion for Taylor a possibility.

Until then, Taylor will keep refining his line-drive approach and hoping that the next cross-country trip he makes with the A's will lead to more than a single batting practice session.

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