LOS ANGELES -- There was a time when the new guy in a new town could sit in the last row, blend in with some unfamiliar peers, gauge the speed of the room and decide when and where to assert yourself within the group.
But that was a much simpler time, when you wore a backpack and brought your lunch in a brown paper bag. PB&J with the crusts cut off.
Josh Reddick knows that time is long gone, and that now, blending in with your surroundings with speed and precision is a job requirement.
The newest Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder, brought in to augment the lack of consistent production from Yasiel Puig, has been slower to assimilate than he would prefer. His four hits in his first eight games with the Dodgers are just one more than Puig had in his final afternoon with the club, before he was demoted.
Baseball is said to be a patient-man’s game, but this is not what they were talking about. Patience is working the count, not trying to get two hits in one at-bat in order to exit a slump, understanding that fortunes can change over a 162-game schedule.
Fortunately for Reddick, the Dodgers’ offense is helping to make the transition a little easier. Reddick isn’t hitting in a Dodgers uniform yet, but he isn’t getting that new-guy blame, either, since the club is crushing the ball all around him, scoring eight or more runs in three consecutive games this week before scoring just two runs in a Wednesday-afternoon loss.
After floundering earlier in the year, outside of the opening three games at San Diego, the Dodgers have one of the best offenses in baseball. Reddick is itching to contribute to it.
“It’s fun; it’s overshadowing a lot of things for me personally, but it’s great because this lineup can do everything from top to bottom,” Reddick said. “They’re doing a great job. It’s fun to be a part of. I haven’t been a part of a lineup like this in a while.”
The Dodgers, of course, won’t let a one-week stretch determine the value of the Aug. 1 trade that landed them Reddick and left-handed starter Rich Hill, who still hasn’t pitched for his new club because of a blister issue on the middle finger of his left hand.
The Dodgers sent the Oakland Athletics pitching prospects Frankie Montas, Grant Holmes and Jharel Cotton, with Cotton nearly firing a perfect game in his debut with Triple-A Nashville, collecting 26 consecutive outs before giving up a triple with two outs in the ninth inning.
The Dodgers are Reddick’s third organization after the A’s and Boston Red Sox, making this his first foray into the National League. But there are plenty of those with the Dodgers who know what Reddick is all about. Scott Kazmir and Adrian Gonzalez were former teammates. Dodgers GM Farhan Zaidi used to work in the A’s front office.
“He’s a tremendous two-way player and he’s having a tremendous season,” Zaidi said a day after the trade went down. “I really think he is a Gold Glove-caliber right fielder, and I am excited to see him put on a Dodgers uniform and help us win some games going forward.”
Even as he has been working into his top form offensively, the Dodgers have taken advantage of Reddick’s lineup versatility. In his first eight games with the Dodgers, Reddick batted fourth, sixth and second. With the A’s this year, he mostly hit out of the No. 3 spot.
Regardless of the spot, Reddick just wants to deliver some offense. He has been hitting the ball hard but has nothing to show for it. It has been both frustrating, but promising at the same time.
“I think everyone here that I have already known in the past kind of realizes what’s going on,” Reddick said. “And I think a lot of guys realize what is going on because they have been through it at some point in their career.
“But yeah, I know that [manager Dave Roberts] and all the coaches have a lot of faith in me and they can see what’s going on as well. It’s just a matter of grinding through it and getting over it. Once things do get turned around, it’s going to be an impressive time to run.”
Instead of moving Reddick down in the order to compensate for a lack of early hits, Roberts instead batted him second Wednesday. Maybe the manager knew that Reddick was due. In his first at-bat in that game against the Phillies, Reddick delivered a first-inning single and scored the game’s first run. He finished the afternoon with two hits, matching his total in his first week with the club.
“I feel that Josh has always been an on-base guy,” Roberts said. “Yeah, maybe a different visual in the lineup to focus on just getting on base. I think he might be pressing a little bit here, but I still know that he’s always gotten on base, and he’s going to work himself out of it.”
Reddick is a proven professional. Eight years of major league success has proven that. He has finished as high as 16th in the American League MVP race (2012) and has a Gold Glove to his credit. He knows he can do the job, even if those in his new fan base have yet to witness it.
“Yeah, it makes it a lot easier on me the way it’s been going,” Reddick said. “When your team is winning, you’re not going to be the guy complaining. For me, it’s not like I’m going up there with bad at-bats. I’m hitting the ball hard, it’s just running into a long stretch of bad luck. But the most important thing here is winning, and that’s what we’re doing.”