Jun 28, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Oakland Athletics relief pitcher Luke Gregerson (44) throws during the eighth inning against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Ballpark. The Oakland Athletics won 7-6 in 14th inning. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
How different it must be viewing things from afar. One doesn’t notice what is normal, or what is considered normal until they are out of a situation, in another, and see that the previous time in their life was really a drag. That may not be exactly how former San Diego Padres’ reliever Luke Gregerson would describe it, but after seeing his former teammates struggle at a historic pace, he has to be thinking to himself “Thank God I’m outta there.” The former Friar was given a reprieve this past winter, when he was dealt to the Oakland Athletics for outfielder Seth Smith.
"“I had to start over with everything – new teammates and a coaching staff and all of that…After the shock of that passed, I was really excited to be here. I knew what I was getting myself into. I was excited for it. I was ready to be a part of something maybe a little better, maybe a little bigger.”"
What Gregerson is realizing now, that he didn’t then, is that losing shouldn’t be the norm. It should be the exception. Every team goes through rough patches, but to have it become habit, and to struggle season after season, the reliever now sees what he was missing, as his A’s are the best team in the American League, and he is one of the best relievers in one of the best bullpens in all of baseball.
"“You get a chance to win. You get a chance to be in the playoffs.”"
For Gregerson, he’s had the entire winter, spring, and now summer to acclimate to the winning atmosphere that permeates the Oakland organization and clubhouse, but a former and now current teammate is still getting used to it. Kyle Blanks, the hulking slugger, was acquired to be a platoon first baseman and designated hitter just over a month ago, and Blanks is enjoying the opportunity to be a part of something bigger:
"“When I came over here, it was unbelievable. Every game was win, win, win. Be down and come back…It was unbelievable.” ~Oakland Athletics first baseman Kyle Blanks"
Prior to going on the disabled list with an injured calf, Blanks was enjoying a small career resurgence, posting a slash line of .309/.409/.436 along with a pair of home runs, and seven driven in, in just under 60 plate apperances. Blanks feels wanted, and believes as long as he does his job, he will remain a vital cog in the machine that is driving towards another division title and postseason appearance.
Gregerson is once again pacing the league in appearances, ranking second, while striking out fewer hitters, and pitching more to contact than he has at any point in his career. He’s throwing his slider less than he ever has, while increasing the use of his sinker.
While Gregerson and Blanks feel bad for their former mates down in San Diego, they lived through lean years, have earned their battle scars, and if given a choice, a winning attitude, an organization that “gets it”, and does what it needs to, to compete day in and day out, there is no place either man would rather be…and with any luck, by the end of the season, they’ll both see October baseball for the first time in their careers.