PHOENIX — There would be no greater cry of joy from the collective consciousness of Oakland Athletics fans come opening day than to see Addison Russell's name on the roster.
The shortstop is the club's top prospect, is widely regarded by scouts as one of the best dozen potential breakthrough players in the game and could be the foundation for the club's infield for a half decade once he arrives.
Fans have been drooling for a chance to see him in an Oakland uniform since he was drafted two years ago in the first round.
There is next to no chance Russell, 20, will in fact be on the Athletics' roster. He has played only three games above Single-A and needs professional game experience before getting thrown into the maelstrom of Major League Baseball. He will, though, be on display the next few weeks in the A's lineup with Cactus League play starting Wednesday.
A year ago, Russell was also in camp, but he kept mostly to himself and played relatively little.
What a difference a year has made. After hitting seven homers in rookie ball, he opened up with 17 last season at high Single-A Stockton.
“Twelve months ago I was a little different player,” he said. “I wasn't as relaxed, I was new (to spring training). I'm more patient.”
And he's clearly more mature. It's not just the matter of physical maturity in that he's stronger, although the home run spike suggests that. It's mental maturity in that he's seemingly the one guy who's not obsessed whether or not he makes the opening day roster.
His focus is on other things.
“My mindset is different,” he said. “As a player, I'm going out there now to hit what a pitcher throws. I'm still aggressive at the plate and on the field. I'm trying to figure out what kind of player I am and what kind of player I will be.”