PHOENIX — There is always something about Josh Reddick that has been a little larger than life, and not just because he rolled into the A's camp looking a little like a tumbleweed with muscles.
The Oakland surge in 2012 from 13 games out of first place to winning the American League West had much to do with Reddick, who led the team with 32 homers, many of them monsters, and 85 RBIs.
If there is to be a repeat in the West for the A's, Oakland will need the same kind of effort or better from the right fielder, who went from being an afterthought in Boston to a star by the Bay. Along the way, being in the Bay Area with a young team helped set Reddick's personality free — as did playing alongside free-spirited DH/outfielder Jonny Gomes.
Gomes has moved on as a free agent to the Red Sox, but Reddick remains and has every hope of expanding the cool clubhouse vibe that Gomes helped set in motion last season.
When Reddick walked into the A's clubhouse Friday morning, he was quite the sight with his long, scraggly beard and flowing locks.
The clubhouse vibe seems to be in good hands.
"I don't see the chemistry here changing a whole lot," Reddick said after putting the green and gold for the first time. "There are valuable guys who are gone, but we've got a whole lot of guys who were here, who knew what it was like and who can keep it going."
One of those is Reddick himself.
"If what it takes to have that feeling again this year is for me to be more of a team leader, then that's what I'll do," Reddick said. "We're all stoked to start here again. There are some big holes to fill, but it can be done."
In a conversation about Reddick, it was suggested to hitting coach Chili Davis that when Reddick's persona shines, his game shines, too. Davis nodded immediately.
"That's how it is with Josh," Davis said. "There are going to be times when he comes off to some as not the team player you want, but he is. He very much is that team player. He's disappointed in himself when he doesn't help the team."
Davis looked back to an at-bat last Sept. 26 when the A's were in the middle of clawing their way back into contention against the two-time defending AL West champion Rangers. Reddick struck out with a man in scoring position against Roy Oswalt, then went up the runway behind the dugout in Arlington, Texas and vented.
Meanwhile, catcher Derek Norris went to the plate and delivered the RBI that Reddick didn't, crushing a triple that knocked Oswalt out of the game.
"I told him that even though he'd failed, Dino (Norris) had picked him up," Davis said. "We'd gotten the run. I suggested he go out and congratulate Norris for picking him up, and he did. And you could see immediately he was feeling better about things.
"He'd been in a slump, but the next day he went out and hit a couple of homers. This game is weird. The more you struggle, the more you fight. I think he learned a lesson that day. It was a lesson it took me a long time to learn."