NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — At this time last year, Ryon Healy was doing his offseason workouts unsure of when his first big league opportunity might come knocking.
Fast forward to his current situation. The A’s young third baseman, coming off a very impressive rookie season, looks like a foundation piece for Oakland. Manager Bob Melvin, giving his annual media address at the winter meetings Wednesday, talked about Healy’s impressive debut and his ability to handle third base in the majors after spending his college days and much of his minor league career at first.
“You know, it’s one thing when you get to the big leagues for the first time, it's a little bit uncomfortable,” Melvin said. “It's another thing when you're playing a position that you haven't played for very long, and that just kind of shows his tenacity. He really feels like he can play anywhere if he had to.”
Healy works out every offseason with Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Kevin Pillar, a fellow Southern California resident. Last winter, Healy said Pillar twisted the knife in him a little, jabbing at Healy because he wasn’t invited to the A’s major league spring camp. It was meant to be light-hearted motivation for Healy.
Healy proceeded to get called up at the All-Star break and unseated Danny Valencia at third base, hitting .305 with 13 home runs and 37 RBI in 72 games. So how is he responding to Pillar in this winter’s workouts?
“I’ve already been jawing at him and the fact that I had half a season and almost doubled his home run total (of seven),” Healy told CSN California last week.
All indications are Healy will enter the 2017 season as the A’s starting third baseman. Valencia was traded to Seattle, and the signals coming from Oakland officials are that they’d prefer highly touted third base prospect Matt Chapman to get a little more minor league seasoning at Triple-A. Healy’s emergence makes it easier to make that call.
But Melvin also points to Healy’s versatility, saying he could move across the diamond to first base if need be.
“He just wants to get his bat in the lineup,” Melvin said. “He's a tough kid. And to take to third base, which is not an easy position, as well as he did, you know, speaks to how hard he works. If Chapman ends up being there at some point in time, (Healy’s) natural position is first base. We also have the DH spot. We'll find a place for his bat.”