Former Nevada star Kouzmanoff not taking anything for granted
PHOENIX (AP) – The Oakland Athletics acquired Kevin Kouzmanoff to be their full-time third baseman. The oft-injured Eric Chavez, a six-time Gold Glove winner at third, still figures in the team’s plans – as a utility player.
Kouzmanoff came into A’s camp Thursday brimming with confidence and excited about the change of scenery. He’s also not going to take anything for granted, especially with an apparently healthy Chavez in camp.
He’s going to continue to work like he has something to prove.
“My thinking is there is a job I’m trying to win,” said Kouzmanoff, who played at Nevada in 2003. “Eric is a great player. You want to talk to him about defense. I’ll play where I can help this team, whether it’s third, first or in the outfield.”
After setting an NL fielding percentage record (.990) for third basemen with the San Diego Padres last year, it’s unlikely Kouzmanoff will see much time anywhere else. That’s why Chavez, who still has a tender throwing shoulder, also has a first baseman’s mitt and outfielder’s glove in tow.
There’s nothing fancy about the way Kouzmanoff made himself into one of the top defensive third basemen in the major leagues. He worked at it.
“Just give me a fungo hitter who will hit me groundball after groundball,” Kouzmanoff said. “It’s important to always get better. I’m never satisfied with my game.”
No fancy video replays or computer simulations for this former Western Athletic Conference Player of the Year; give him a glove and some dirt and he’ll play until it becomes counterproductive.
Kouzmanoff has a Buffalo sportswriter to credit for his defensive improvement – his fielding percentage shot up in each of his three years with the Padres.
“I honestly don’t remember his name, but it was in AAA,” Kouzmanoff said. “I read his article about how poor a defensive player I was and I took it to heart. If that was a weakness, I needed to work on it. The biggest thing has been with my footwork. I had heavy feet. I’m still working on that.”
Notes: RHP Justin Duchscherer was in camp and scheduled to play catch as he recovers from a medical procedure. … LHP Lenny DiNardo is slated for a side session on Saturday as he comes back from a strained left Achilles’. … RHP Clayton Mortensen was the only scheduled pitcher to throw Thursday as position players officially reported. … RHP Ben Sheets threw a simulated game, with C Kurt Suzuki behind the plate, on Wednesday and will throw batting practice on Sunday.