|Robnett has an 802 OPS for Sacramento this season.|
"Coming off of injuries, it's always hard because it is hard to trust yourself again and trust that whatever you do, you aren't going to hurt yourself worse. But as I have been getting more and more at-bats and just playing, I have felt a lot more comfortable."
The 2008 season figures to be an important one for Robnett. Four years after he was taken with the 26th overall pick in the 2004 draft out of Fresno State, Robnett finally finds himself one step away from the major leagues. Robnett's tour through the A's minor league system has been a relatively deliberate one. Termed a "raw" prospect when he was selected, Robnett spent his first one-and-a-half full seasons as a pro at High-A in Stockton. Midway through the 2006 season, Robnett finally earned a promotion to Double-A, but his time with Midland that season was cut short by a broken hamate bone.
In 2007, Robnett returned to Midland and put together a solid season for the Rockhounds, hitting 18 homeruns during the regular season and homering off of former number one draft pick Luke Hochevar in the Texas League All-Star game. Robnett was promoted to Triple-A for the last few weeks of the 2007 season, but he appeared in only 10 games and had only 33 at-bats for the River Cats.
"It was really too quick [last season] to get a feel for Triple-A. I didn't really play much last year when I was came up here, so I didn't really have a chance to get a feel for it," Robnett said.
"Just being in big league spring training allowed me to feel more comfortable at this level. I got to know a lot of the players from the big league team and from this one, so I think I had a good sense from that about what it was going to be like."
Adding to Robnett's comfort level in Sacramento is that Todd Steverson is the manager for the River Cats. Steverson has been with Robnett throughout most of his career, acting as Robnett's hitting coach in Vancouver in 2004, and as his manager with Stockton in 2005 and 2006 and in Midland in 2007.
Robnett has developed a good rapport with Steverson over the years.
"It makes it more comfortable to be able to play on his team because he has seen you at your worst and he has seen you at your best. You don't have to put any extra pressure on yourself to do more than what you can," Robnett said.
"If he sees something in my swing that is off, I trust what he says because he has seen me play my whole career."
Over the years, Steverson has seen Robnett grow as a player, but he knows Robnett has more refining to do.
"Richie is just like everyone else in that he is still learning the game and learning himself," Steverson said.
A football player in high school, Robnett is known for having one of the most muscular physiques in the A's organization. Robnett puts a lot of time both in the weight room and in the batting cages. Steverson notes that Robnett is one of the hardest workers on a team of players with good work ethics.
"He has a good routine that he goes through every day and he's a workaholic. All of these guys work hard at their craft, but he is near the top of that list," Steverson said.
Robnett's hard work was rewarded this past off-season when he was added to the A's 40-man roster.
"[Being added to the 40-man roster] is just another step in the right direction. It gives you an incentive to continue working hard because you can see that that is paying off. I'm just focused on continuing to work hard and hopefully take that next step," Robnett said.
Being on the 40-man roster meant that Robnett got an invitation to major league spring training. Robnett only appeared in one major league spring training game, but he made it a memorable one, homering, tripling and driving in four runs versus the Giants.
"That was awesome. I had my family there and that was actually the only game that my family was able to watch [this spring]," Robnett said.
"It was exciting and it gave me a chance to show the big league coaches what I could do in game situations. I was excited about it because I made the best of my opportunities at that time."
If Robnett can continue his recent strong play, he could get another chance to prove himself to A's coaches once again later this year.