Powell Happy To Pitch In

OAKLAND - Since Little League, Landon Powell has been a starter, so it has been an adjustment for the Oakland A's 2004 first-round pick to act as a back-up catcher during his rookie season in the major leagues. Powell is handling the new role well, and has contributed a .265 average along with 18 RBIs and a 762 OPS in 28 games. We spoke to the A's rookie catcher at the Coliseum on Monday night...

Landon Powell has waited a long time to get to the big leagues, so he doesn't mind waiting awhile longer to be a major league starting catcher. Thus far, Powell is making a strong case that he can be an everyday catcher in the big leagues. He has appeared in 28 games for Oakland and has hit .265 with two homers and 18 RBIs in 83 at-bats.

The A's last two starting catchers (Jason Kendall and Kurt Suzuki) are the definition of "workhorse backstops," so A's back-up catchers have struggled to find playing time and have often produced feeble offensive results when pressed into action. Powell has found more success than his predecessors, particularly with runners in scoring position. In 22 such at-bats, Powell is batting .409 with a 1209 OPS. Behind the plate, Powell has done a nice job catching the young A's pitching staff, especially left-hander Gio Gonzalez, whom Powell caught in Triple-A Sacramento last season.

The only negative for Powell thus far this season has been a series of nagging hamstring injuries that haven't cost him any playing time, but may have prevented him from getting some pitch-hitting appearances. Powell has overcome a myriad of leg problems since being drafted in 2004 to reach the big leagues.

We spoke to Powell about the health of his legs, being a back-up catcher, his approach at the plate with runners in scoring position and more...

OaklandClubhouse: Congratulations on a good rookie season so far. How are your legs feeling?

Landon Powell: They're getting better. I have tweaked my hammies a couple of times, so it is something that I have been battling but they are good enough for me to go out there and play and perform.

OC: Is it still kind of surreal to be up in the big leagues or are you feeling more comfortable now?

LP: Definitely. I think early on, I was just overwhelmed and excited to be here. I was pretty nervous every time I got up there. But that went away pretty quickly and now that I have gotten 20 or 30 games in there, I feel a little more comfortable when I get into games and I am ready to play more and do anything I can to help the team.

OC: You have been working really well with Gio Gonzalez his last few starts. Is that due to the experience you had catching him last season in Sacramento?

LP: I have called Gio a lot, especially last year in Sacramento, and I think we have a pretty good rapport together. I think I have called three out of his last four games and we've been able to build on that and tack onto some of the things we were doing last year. It seems to be working pretty well.

OC: At the plate, you've had a lot of success with runners in scoring position. Do you have a different mind-set when you are up in those situations?

LP: I just know being a young guy and hitting in the bottom of the order and things like that, I know that they are going to attack me pretty early in the count. I try to be aggressive with runners in scoring position because I know that I am going to get a pretty good pitch to hit within the first few pitches of the at-bat. I just don't want to miss that one pitch I get, so I have been trying to attack early in the count.

OC: Has it been tough getting used to being a back-up after being a starter your whole career?

LP: It's definitely been the biggest adjustment to my rookie season is adjusting to the back-up role after being a starter. Kurt [Suzuki] is a great catcher and I am learning a lot by watching him and seeing how he works and plays. I'm just focusing on continuing to do the things I can do and to keep working on those things and hopefully someday I'll get a chance to be an everyday guy, too.

OC: Is it fun to see guys like Cliff [Pennington] and Tom [Everidge] make it up here after playing with them in the minors?

LP: Definitely. Those guys have worked really hard and it has taken a couple of years for Tommy, especially, to get up here. A lot of guys who were drafted around the same time as him [2004, the year Powell was also drafted] and got to see him come up are really excited for him.

We all knew that Cliff was a great player and that it was just a matter of time before he got here. I think a lot of the guys who came up with those guys are excited to see them here and are hoping that they do well.

OC: Did you enjoy catching up with [Rangers All-Star centerfielder] Josh Hamilton [before the A's-Rangers game on Monday night]?

LP: Yeah. Josh and I played together growing up in Little League and Pop Warner football and everything, so it is always nice to see him when he comes to town or when I go to Texas. He is a great guy and I am glad to see him have all of the success he is having.

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