A Year Of Changes For Recker

The 2009 season has been one of adjustments for Anthony Recker. Recker has dealt not only with learning how to play at a higher level, but he has also learned how to be a part-time player for the first time in his career. That process has had its ups-and-downs, but with the season coming to a close, Recker is finally comfortable at the plate, and that comfort is showing up in the boxscores.

It was a wild first couple of months of the 2009 season for Anthony Recker. He began spring training competing for a spot on the roster of the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats, only to find that spot seemingly taken away when the Oakland A's added Mexican League catcher Joel Galarraga before spring training and two major league veterans – Eric Munson and Curtis Thigpen – at the end of camp.

As it turned out, Recker was on the River Cats' Opening Day roster after all. Galarraga was unable to start the season on-time thanks to a visa issue, Munson's debut was delayed a few weeks as he participated in extended spring training and Thigpen went down soon after the A's signed him with a sore back, leaving Recker as the River Cats' primary catcher for the first two weeks of the season.

The start of the season marked Recker's first at Triple-A. An 18th round pick of the A's in 2005, Recker has made a gradual, but steady climb through the organization, moving from Low-A in 2006 to High-A and Double-A in 2007 to Double-A in 2008. Recker has found success at every level he has played at with the A's, earning spots on the league All-Star teams for the Midwest, California and Texas leagues.

Things did not get off to a fast start for Recker at the Triple-A level, however. During his first month with Sacramento, Recker hit only .156 with two homers and 16 strike-outs in 45 at-bats spread over 14 games. With Munson and Galarraga joining the River Cats at the end of April, Recker was sent back to Double-A Midland. He quickly found his stroke with the Rockhounds, batting .298 with a 911 OPS in 57 at-bats. When Galarraga went down with a shoulder injury in May, Recker was quickly summoned back to Triple-A.

Recker saw some improvement with the River Cats in May, batting .268 with a 716 OPS in 41 at-bats. However, he slumped to .214 and 657 in June in 70 at-bats before he really found his grove in July and August. In July, he posted an 832 OPS in 44 at-bats and then got red-hot in August, batting .375 with an 1114 OPS in 56 at-bats.

The Pennsylvania native acknowledges that he had a bit of a learning curve early in the season, from an offensive perspective. Defensively, Recker has felt comfortable all year and he has thrown out 36 percent of potential base-stealers this season.

"It was a bit of an adjustment at first [offensively]. I got off to a poor start and was sent down to Double-A for a little bit, but I'm trying to put together a quality season and lately I have been hitting the ball a little better," Recker said.

Overall, Recker is batting .254 with 12 homers and a 774 OPS in 260 at-bats with the River Cats and .262 with 15 homers and a 799 OPS on the season. Those are certainly not shabby numbers, especially for a catcher, but the hard-working Recker believes he could have done better this season.

"I set very high goals for myself. I don't want to say that I am a perfectionist, but I demand a lot of myself. I know I could have had a better year, but there is nothing I can do about that now. I just have to concentrate on finishing off the season strong and go into the off-season and next year playing as well as I can," Recker said.

In addition to adjusting to a new level, Recker has had to learn how to be a part-time player for the first time in his career. Through Tuesday, he had appeared in 90 games between Sacramento and Midland, meaning that he won't reach the 100 games played plateau during the regular season for the first time in his career.

"Probably been the biggest adjustment I've had to make this year is not playing everyday and having to find some sort of consistency day-in and day-out during practice and routines that I can take into games when I actually get in there," Recker said.

Although he isn't playing every day, Recker has done a lot of learning this season. For the first time in his career, Recker is sharing the catching duties with someone who has major league experience. Recker says he has picked up a lot from Munson, the third overall pick in 1999 and a veteran of nine minor league seasons and parts of eight major league campaigns.

"I watch Munson during BP and when he is on the field and I'm not, just seeing what he is doing and picking up little things," Recker said.

"You can learn a lot from somebody like that. He's obviously a little older and he has been in the big leagues for a couple of years. He's definitely someone I look up to."

Last off-season, Recker traveled to the Dominican Republic to play for the Leones del Escogido of the Dominican Winter League and he is hoping to repeat the experience this off-season.

"[Playing for Escogido] was great. The team treated me awesome. I'd love to go back there. I don't know if I will get the chance, but I guess we'll see the next few weeks," Recker said.

Even if Recker doesn't land in the Dominican, he'd like to have the opportunity carry his current hot streak into a winter league somewhere.

"Anywhere I can play in the off-season is a good thing. I didn't get the at-bats I wanted to this year, so it would be good for me to get the at-bats in," Recker said.

"Especially now that I am starting to feel comfortable, so it would be good to see what I can do there."

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