Oakland A's Spring Q&A: Anthony Recker, C

Coming out of Alvernia College, Anthony Recker was not much of a known commodity when he was selected in the 18th round of the 2005 draft by the Oakland A's. Since that time, however, Recker has established himself as one of the A's top catching prospects. He had an uneven 2007 season, but still hit a career-high 17 homeruns. We spoke to Recker from his first major league spring training camp.

Anthony Recker's 2007 season was a tale of two halves. In the first half, he was an elite slugger, batting .319 with 13 homers and a 1010 OPS in only 207 at-bats for High-A Stockton. During the second half, he was more human, batting only .204 with four homers in 201 at-bats for Double-A Midland. His second half ended on an even more sour note when he broke his hamate bone days before the end of the season. The injury cost him a chance to appear in the Arizona Fall League.

Despite the late season struggles, Recker is still one of the A's top prospects at catcher. In two and a half seasons in the minor leagues, Recker has hit 36 homers and has a career slugging percentage of .452. In three short years, Recker has transformed himself from an unknown commodity to a player with a legitimate shot at a major-league career.

We spoke to Recker from his first major league spring camp about his experiences in big league camp thus far, his commitment to improving his approach on the field, his recovery from the hamate injury and more…

Anthony Recker was a California League All-Star in 2007.
OaklandClubhouse: How has Spring Training been going for you? How is it different from the minor league camps that you have attended?

Anthony Recker: Big league camp is going really well. I am learning a lot and am getting acclimated to the processes of getting to the field at eight o'clock in the morning – working out in the off-season, we didn't get to the field until 10 – so it has just been a process of getting used to everything. Obviously, doing Spring Training in the middle of February is a little different than waiting until the first or second weekend of March. But so far it has been good. I'm just learning a lot and am trying to soak everything up.

OC: How has it been catching some of the pitchers with major-league experience? Is that different than catching some of the younger guys?

AR: It's definitely a different experience. They've got really good stuff and their command is definitely there. It's just nice because they know what they want to do. They have a game-plan and a lot of the younger guys are trying to learn their game-plan and what they want to do still coming up through the minor leagues. Other than that, it is all just the same.

OC: Has there been anyone who has stood out to you where you have thought, ‘wow, I haven't caught someone with that kind of stuff before?'

AR: Nobody yet. They all have really good stuff so I can't really single one guy out. I've caught some guys with more experience and some of the guys coming up through the organization and they all have pretty good stuff. They all command the ball well, that is our organization's policy. As long as they are doing their job and commanding the ball, it makes my job easier and most of them have been doing that so far.

OC: How has it been working with Don Wakamatsu [the A's catching instructor]?

AR: It has been awesome. He's been teaching me a lot already. I've changed a little about my stance and some of the things I've been trying to do behind the plate. Definitely mentally he has been getting me prepared for the season, trying to keep me positive and just having a good outlook on everything that I am doing, whether it be little workouts or trying to fix little problems with my catching techniques or if it is calling pitches or staying focused during first-to-third situations and things like that. He has been really good and he has worked with me a lot on the physical things, like I said, but also on the mental-side, too.

Anthony Recker had 14 homers with Kane County in 2006.
OC: Have the workouts changed since it became full-squad?

AR: Not much. For the most part, it is a similar routine. We get there, we throw, we hit, we catch. There might be a little bit of intrasquad now and live BP, which we weren't doing before, but other than that, it's very similar and everything has run very smoothly. It's been good.

OC: Has it been interesting getting to know a lot of the new faces?

AR: Definitely. There are a lot of new faces at camp from a lot of different organizations – the White Sox, the D-Backs and wherever else a lot of these new guys have come from. A lot of free agents, a lot of trades. They are all fresh faces and getting to know them has been fun. But, at the same time, it is challenging as a catcher because you have to learn that many new pitchers and what they like to do. It is a challenge, but it keeps you on your toes and mentally, it is great for you.

OC: How is your wrist doing? You broke your hamate bone at the end of last year, right?

Anthony Recker has been working with the A's coaching staff on his technique this spring.
AR: Yeah, I broke my hamate bone with a couple of games to go at the end of last season, but I had successful surgery with Dr. Sheridan down here in Scottsdale and I haven't had any problems with it since. I rehabbed it a little bit and I've been cleared pretty much since November to do whatever I want, so it has been really good.

OC: What did you take from last season? You started off the year hitting everything that came your way in Stockton and then it took you a little longer to get going at Midland. What did you learn from the transition from High-A to Double-A?

AR: Mainly, it was just that I need to be a little stronger mentally. I never really realized what this game can do to you mentally. Last year was quite an experience, going from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows. It's definitely been a learning curve just trying to figure out what I want to do mentally, how I want to approach the game and what not to let the game do to me. Not to let it get me frustrated and flustered because that is not going to help me out on the field. That is just something that I am taking into this year, just trying to be positive all of the time and Don Wakamatsu has been working with me a lot on just staying positive and carrying a good attitude through everything.

OC: What was the biggest change that you noticed in the competition level between A-ball and Double-A?

AR: I can't really say that there was much difference. When I go through the batting order – as a catcher, I go through the opposing team's batting order before the game – I might say to myself that there are maybe one or two more bats that I have to be cautious about than there were in A-ball. As far as the pitching staff goes, they might have a little better command, but, for the most part, it is a pretty similar game all the way up. They all have good stuff. Anybody in professional baseball, there is a reason that they are there.

Obviously, there is a little more of a jump talent-wise, but it is more just the mental-side of the game that is different. They are a lot more prepared for each game in Double-A. They are much better prepared to face you – the pitchers are – so it is a little bit more of a grind. You have to be a lot more focused to get through the season and be successful.

Anthony Recker participated in the homerun derby during the 2007 California/Carolina League All-Star game in Stockton.
OC: I know you were scheduled to go to the Arizona Fall League before you got hurt. Did being invited to big league camp help to mitigate the disappointment of not getting to go to the AFL?

AR: [laughs] Yeah, I would say definitely. I was extremely frustrated when I hurt my hand and for only one reason: I knew literally as soon as I did it that I wasn't going to the Fall League. As soon as I took the swing and felt the pop, I knew what it was and I got really frustrated. There were only three games left in the season and missing any games bothers me, but I was really just disappointed that I wasn't going to be able to go to fall ball. But definitely, going to big league camp this year is an experience that I have enjoyed a lot and has helped me get over the fact that I wasn't able to go to fall ball and show them what I could do there.

OC: I believe you caught a lot more games last year than you did in Kane County, where you got to DH a little more. Was that hard on your body to catch that many games?

AR: No, I don't think it was that much harder. I take pride in being physically prepared for the season, so I don't think it was much of a physical adjustment at all. The mental part, as I said, was pretty big. To be that much more focused for that many more games, it can be taxing, but physically my body felt great at the end of the year – obviously with the exception of my hamate bone – and everything was working great at the end of the season just like it was in the beginning of the season.

OC: Once you got healthy, what was your off-season preparation like?

AR: Once I was healthy, I was pretty much going to the field everyday. I got an apartment down here in Scottsdale. I've been going to field pretty much everyday and lifting probably four or five days a week. I started hitting and throwing in December and obviously was trying to build my bat speed back up because having the wrist injury, you obviously have to do some rehab on the forearms and stuff. It's just been pretty much the same as last year and it's a lot of throwing, a lot of hitting and a lot of lifting and doing some speed work and some agility work for behind the plate to get quick feet and things like that. And just trying to polish the things that I can early on.

Anthony Recker shares a laugh with Kurt Suzuki in camp. Recker has been working closely with Suzuki this spring.
I know it is a long road from here, so I didn't kill myself coming into Spring Training because I knew that in Spring Training I would be learning a lot and I would be taking that out into the field and that would be more of my preparation than anything else.

OC: Have you had a chance to pick the brains of guys like Kurt Suzuki and Rob Bowen who have had some major league service time?

AR: Oh, yeah, definitely. I have been talking to Suzuki a lot and Bowen a little bit just about the rigors of catching and different stances and different techniques and what to do in different counts. All of the catchers have had sit-down talks with the pitching coaches and the coordinators just about our game-plan and things like that. It has been a little bit of an eye-opening experience in that sense because I realize how much more prepared I have to be for the games as you get to the higher levels, especially as you get to the big leagues.

I am definitely learning a lot from that and Suzuki has been really supportive with me. When we do drills and things, I get frustrated sometimes and so does he, so we've kind of been a little bit of a support system for one another. He's definitely been more so for me than me for him. I've definitely had a chance to pick their brains a little bit, and Don's too. It's been a big learning experience so far.

OC: Has it been nice to have a group of younger catchers working together?

AR: Definitely. Being with young guys is great because we get to goof around a little bit more, but there are also some veterans in the club. Matthew LeCroy has been awesome. He's been fun and he's kept us young guys even lighter than we were before, keeping us laughing and having a good time. It's been a good mix thus far. Having the young guys there is definitely an advantage. It's not like going to your first big league camp and being the only young guy and having a lot of vets there and feeling out of place. It makes you feel a little more comfortable being there with young guys.

OC: What are your goals going into the regular season?

AR: I don't have any specific goals. I would say my biggest goal again is just being strong mentally day-in and day-out. I had a lot of days last year where I can honestly say that I don't know where my focus was because I would get out there on the field and go through the motions. Then I would come home and think to myself, ‘what did I do today? I don't know.' So I would say my biggest goal this year is to have a plan of attack every day this year and get better at something every day. I want to go into every game with a plan and an attitude that I am going to be focused on every pitch and every play.

OC: Was there a highlight from last season for you?

AR: I would have to say probably hitting my first homerun in Midland. My parents had just gotten out there. They don't get a chance to see me play much. They come out once a year, whenever they can. They actually had a flight planned for Stockton later in the season that they had to switch over to Midland because I was fortunate enough to get moved up. When they got out there, I didn't have a homerun yet in Midland. I was really struggling and the first game that they were there, I hit a homerun in extra-innings to tie the game. That was definitely fun. I felt happy that I could do that while my parents were there. My dad was obviously ecstatic and my mom and my little sister were really happy, so that is probably the moment that I remember the most.

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