ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Everything you know about Brandon Moss is wrong.

The word on Moss is that he's a homer-or-nothing left-handed slugger who swings as if he's wielding Thor's hammer and is addicted to strikeouts. And you know he's a platoon player, sent to the bench every time A's opponents start a left-handed pitcher.

"I think I'm seen as a one-trick pony," is the way Moss puts it.

It turns out none of those perceptions has much basis in reality. The first quarter of the 2014 season has seen the transformation of Moss from a home run threat to an RBI machine.

Coming into Tuesday's series opener against the Tampa Bay Rays, it's no longer his home run total that is bringing recognition to Moss. It's his 39 RBIs. That's three behind American League leader Jose Abreu, the slugging first baseman for the Chicago White Sox who is on the disabled list.

Moss' 11 RBIs last week led the majors and helped him earn his third career American League Player of the Week honor. Moss also led the big leagues in total bases (26), extra-base hits (nine) and slugging percentage (1.182) while batting .455 (10 for 22) over the six games.

"People view me as a slugger who strikes out a lot, and I do," Moss said. "But I have value in other places. I think the guys in this clubhouse recognize that."


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Moss has settled in as the team's cleanup hitter, sandwiched between Josh Donaldson and Yoenis Cespedes, a left-handed bat between the club's two most potent right-handed hitters. Donaldson, himself fifth in the league in RBIs, is second in the league in runs scored with 38, a fact for which Moss bears much responsibility.

"If there's an opportunity for an RBI with him at the plate, you like your chances," Donaldson said. "A pitcher is going to have to be around the zone, and he does a good job recognizing it and hitting it hard."

Batting coach Chili Davis has spent much of the last three seasons reining in the homer-or-nothing swing that Moss once styled. Both men say that Moss now swings at a more controlled 80 percent of his full fury, and that control has made him a greater offensive threat.

"He's on a really torrid streak," Davis said. "(Monday) night he missed the ball and still hit it out of the park. That's the kind of power he has. The 80 percent thing works for him. He can see the ball, he can track it, and he trusts his swing."

Moss had 30 homers last year and has nine this year. He said that while the public perception of his swing was that he was trying to hit the ball into the next area code, it's not like that.

"I think people think I swing from my (butt) on every pitch," Moss said. "I'm not. I'm at 80 percent, because when I swing too hard, I can't pull the ball. My swing is too long, and I stand too close to the plate for that.

"People who watch me play every day know that I'm not trying to hit a home run every single at-bat. There are times when I might try to. But for the most part, I'm just trying to get a good pitch to hit and get the ball in the air. If I do that, the extra-base hits take care of themselves."

As do the RBIs. He had a career-best 87 last year. He's on a pace for 144 this year through slightly more than a quarter of the season.

"I think last year he stopped being just a home run guy and became an RBI producer," A's manager Bob Melvin said. "You can really see it this year. His at-bats with runners in scoring position are great. There's no question he's become an RBI threat."

The last hurdle for Moss likely will be getting over the platoon thing. He's forced his way into the lineup against left-handed starters six times this year, including the last three times the A's have faced a lefty. He is hitting .346 (9 for 26) against lefties.

The A's have added Kyle Blanks to be their right-handed-hitting first baseman, but it will be hard to keep Moss from at least being the D.H. against Tampa Bay left-hander Erik Bedard, against whom Moss is 3 for 4 in his career.

"Obviously I don't play every day, so it can be a little more difficult for me to get numbers to accumulate," Moss said. "But if I come out of this year with people thinking of me as an RBI producer, that would make me happy. Runs are how the game is won. I love to hit home runs, but RBIs are the thing."

Tuesday's game
A's (Drew Pomeranz 3-1) at Tampa Bay (Jake Odorizzi 2-3), 4:10 p.m. CSNCA