At age 20, the A’s top prospect, shortstop Addison Russell, was invited to spend spring training in the A’s big league camp playing with and against major leaguers this spring. Most people expect Russell to be the A’s opening day shortstop in 2015, after Jed Lowrie’s expected departure via free agency, and many are even clamoring for him to make the team this year.
For now though, the talented 20-year-old is just trying to take things one step at a time. We took the opportunity to speak with him late last week in Arizona, just a few days after he strained his hamstring and just a few days before he was reassigned to the A’s minor league camp for the remainder of the spring.
AF: So how’s your hamstring feeling?
AR: It’s coming back. Just taking it easy, one step at a time. I’m not trying to do too much for now, just trying to make sure the thing’s 100% before I try to go back out there…We’re just kind of playing it by ear, just doing treatment every day and doing rehab. One day I could be doing rehab and the next day I might be ready to play. So we’re just playing it by ear right now.
AF: How do you feel overall about your time in the big league camp this spring?
AR: So far, it’s good. I’m settled down. I’m a lot more relaxed than I was last year. You know, it was my first year here, and this is my second year. So I’m starting to get a good grasp of everything and what’s going on here at camp. And I’m just having fun. You know, even though I’m down right now, I’m just having fun.
AF: Has anyone been helping you out or taken you under their wing this spring?
AR: I just try to look around and see what the guys are doing. Of course, I talk to all the guys – I talk to Coco [Crisp], I talk to [John] Jaso, I talk to all of them. I have a locker right by [Josh] Reddick and I pick his brain about certain things. I just talk to everyone.
AF: Was there anything particularly important that you learned last year in your first full season of pro ball?
AR: It’s just a long season. You know, you can’t try to do too many things all at once. You have a long period to accomplish the things that you want to accomplish. You always need to try to keep it on a bit of a pace. But I’m just trying to relax this year, and I think it’s going to work out for me.
AF: Is there anything that you want to work on or try to improve during this upcoming season?
AR: Just trying to learn more knowledge about the game. I want to gain more knowledge about the guys I play against every day, just so down the line if I play against them again I have that knowledge on them. And that’s kind of what I want to get out of this year.
AF: Was that little bit of time you spent at Sacramento for a few days at the end of last season eye-opening for you in any way?
AR: Oh yeah, for sure. You know, a lot of older guys, pitchers, know how to command their stuff. And it’s just a whole different atmosphere. I’m glad that the A’s put me in that position for me to see what it’s going to be like. And now that I have that knowledge, I know that I could go in there and be relaxed and just trust the type of player that I am.
AF: What’s it been like having your buddy Daniel Robertson over here with you in the big league camp on occasion this year?
AR: Oh, it’s fun. It kind of keeps him more at ease. Of course, this is his first year up here, and I try to relax him a little bit, and I think I do a good job. And whenever it’s just us two, we’re just goofballs together and we kind of take the stress off each other. And we kind of feed off each other and try to make each other better.
AF: I know you and Robertson and Matt Olson have all been living together out here this spring. So how’s that been going?
AR: It’s been fun. We were taken in the same class, same year, all high school guys. So we can relate to each other. We like playing with each other, and we love watching each other play. And we just kind of like to compete with each other and try to outdo one another, but it’s just a friendly competition.
AF: So if you’re all sitting around the house on a Friday night with nothing to do, what are you most likely to do be doing?
AR: We like to play card games. We like to play dominoes. We just like to talk to each other. They’re into video games, and I kind of just sit back and watch and make smart comments. I like those guys a lot, they’re positive people – and it’s just fun.
AF: So has your family been out to Arizona to see you yet?
AR: Yeah, they came a week and a half ago. It was really good to see my mom and dad. It was kind of a shock to them – I’m playing with guys they kind of grew up watching. It’s a good feeling.
AF: Everyone expects you to be starting the season at Midland. Have the A’s actually said anything to you about that yet?
AR: I have no verification on where I’m supposed to start. But wherever I do start, I just want to go out there and have fun and just play and not try to get to the big leagues so fast. I just want to relax and just have a good year. In time, I think I’ll be ready. And in time, they’ll know that I’m ready. And whenever that time is, I’ll be ready. I’m going to prepare myself every day as if maybe I do get the call up. But I’m not looking to get to the big leagues right away. There are still some things I need to work on in developing my part of the game to where I feel like I’d be ready for anything.
AF: Well, thanks a lot and best of luck with everything this season.
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