OAKLAND (AP) — Ben Zobrist needs few reminders of the quirks that come with playing in the Oakland Coliseum, his new home.
In the 10th inning of a loss last August playing for the Rays, a small opossum scurried alongside the Tampa Bay left fielder and he caught glimpse of the critter out of the corner of his eye.
“Apparently that was a good omen for the A’s, and not so much for us,” he said with a chuckle Monday.
Zobrist might be in for far more sightings of his new furry friend after the A’s acquired the two-time All-Star infielder along with shortstop Yunel Escobar on Saturday to fill out the middle of their infield. The A’s sent catcher John Jaso and two minor leaguers to the Rays in the trade.
Zobrist combines with Fernando Abad to complete general manager Billy Beane’s A-to-Z makeover of the A’s spanning the past 14 months.
The 33-year-old Zobrist helped the Rays make the playoffs four of the past seven seasons, including an improbable run to the World Series in 2008. He hit .272 with 10 home runs and 52 RBIs last season, and made starts at second base, shortstop, all three outfield spots and designated hitter.
He will never forget the shock of those opossum eyes staring right at him last summer.
Zobrist noticed the creature on a foul ball by Alberto Callaspo earlier in the 10th inning of the 3-2 defeat on Aug. 4.
“That was a strange moment,” Zobrist said Monday. “I was playing a little bit in the gap so I wasn’t paying a lot of attention to the corner over there. I ran a long way for a foul ball and I was over near the bullpen and I saw the ball go into the stands and just kind of out of the corner in my eye there was something in the corner of my eye. I’m like, ‘What in the world?’ I thought it was maybe a piece of paper. I looked over and there it was, a baby possum just staring right up at me. I stood there just frozen for a second, looking at this thing like, ‘Where did you come from?’”
Zobrist, ready to step in at second base, looks forward to maintaining his double-play rhythm with Escobar at shortstop and said that could make for a more seamless transition to his new team.
“Every year there’s a little bit of a culture change in every clubhouse. There is a new dynamic and a new culture and chemistry that has to be cultivated from the start of the season every year,” Zobrist said. “It’s interesting, it definitely was a little bittersweet. You think a lot about the time we’ve spent in Tampa Bay. It’s been eight years. It’s hard to leave behind a lot of friends and relationships there, but at the same time we’re thinking ahead and we’re looking forward to the new baseball chapter and the new challenge ahead.”
Also Monday, right-hander Jesse Chavez agreed to a $2.15 million, one-year contract that avoided salary arbitration.
Chavez stepped in as a key member of the rotation in 2014 when projected starters Jarrod Parker and A.J. Griffin were each lost for the year to elbow injuries that required surgery.
Chavez, 31, went 8-8 with a 3.45 ERA with 21 starts and 32 appearances for a career-high 146 innings last year, when he made $775,000.
The team’s remaining arbitration-eligible players are Abad, Ryan Cook, Sam Fuld, Craig Gentry, Brett Lawrie, Jarrod Parker, Josh Reddick and Eric Sogard.