Much of the talk in the A's spring training camp was about the fourth man in the Oakland outfield.

During the winter, the A's made a deal for Chris Young, a one-time All-Star with the Arizona Diamondbacks who was added despite the A's having Yoenis Cespedes in left, Coco Crisp in center and Josh Reddick in left.

While the media chose to focus on the A's four outfielders, manager Bob Melvin made sure that everyone knew it was a five-man outfield, with the fifth man being Seth Smith.

For his part, Smith didn't get too worked up about the omissions, believing that between backup duty, injury fill-ins and use as the designated hitter, there would be plenty of time for him in the batter's box.

"I felt all along the at-bats would be there for everyone," Smith said. "There's never any use speculating on what might happen when the season will play out as it plays out."

The A's have made it through the first 16 games of the season with the best record in the American League at 12-4. The left-hander has spent much of that time at DH and in left field, and he's been one of the club's best hitters.

"Seth has been a productive player for quite a while now," Melvin said. "He was one of the reasons we did as well as we did last year."

Smith, who has averaged 400 at-bats and 15 homers during the last three seasons with the Colorado Rockies and A's, comes into Friday's series opener against the Tampa Bay Rays with a monstrous .447 with seven RBIs while having played in three-quarters of Oakland's games.


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That's a bit of a change for Smith, who was a .197 hitter last April for Oakland and who didn't really warm up until June and July, when he had 26 of his 52 RBIs.

"I can't really say I'm surprised by the batting average so far," Smith said. "I didn't come in with expectations of a start like this, either for me or for the team. But if you put in all the hard work you should, things then to work out sometimes."

Between Smith's hot bat and Cespedes being on the disabled list, Smith likely won't be out of the A's lineup any time soon. In the past, Melvin might have been forced to find a replacement for Smith against left-handed starting pitching, but the A's aren't scheduled to see lefties any time soon. Even if they do, Smith is crushing them lately.

He has eight hits in his first 12 at-bats against lefties after hitting just .157 against them last season and only .205 for his career.

"I don't think he had to fight to get playing time," Melvin said. "He had to fight for added at-bats against left-handed pitchers. He's been putting some amazing at-bats together this year.''

Smith, who tends toward the quiet side, doesn't go so far as to call anything he's done "amazing."

"I don't look to see where my average is," he said. "When I do see it, I'm not crunching numbers. I've been around this game long enough to know all stuff like that is fleeting.

"What's important is to go out, take care of doing your work and it will all work out."