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Reddick ready for a new start
Major leaguer anxious to get going after a trade and minor wrist surgery
reddick pitch 1
Former South Effingham High School star and current Oakland Athletics outfielder Josh Reddick threw out the first pitch before his alma maters season opener Monday. Reddick is ready for spring training after a busy offseason, which included a trip to Taiwan, a surgery and a trade. - photo by Photo by Pat Donahue

His next trip to Asia may not include another sampling of snake blood.

Josh Reddick, the major league outfielder, and the rest of the Oakland Athletics will open the 2012 season in Japan against American League West rival Seattle. Last fall, Reddick and another group of big leaguers took part in an exhibition series in Taiwan.

And the South Effingham High School grad and his fellow ball players immersed themselves in the street markets and culture of Taiwan — right down to drinking snake blood, on sale by street vendors.

"It was a blast," Reddick said. "They treated everybody great. They treated us like royalty. We got mobbed for pictures and autographs."

The trip to Taiwan came just a couple of weeks after the end of the 2011 regular season, and Reddick’s teammates in Taiwan included New York Yankees stars Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson. At the time, Reddick was still a member of the Boston Red Sox, the organization that drafted him out of Middle Georgia College in 2006.

"I think I might have made some fans in the Red Sox Nation made by doing some of the stuff in the outfield with Granderson," he joked.

The major leaguers held clinics for young baseball players and played a five-game series against Taiwanese players. Reddick and a few players chose to partake of the snake blood — the vendor takes the snake out and kills it right there in front of the customers — before one of the games.

Did it work? Well, yes, if you ask Reddick.

"Coincidentally, it was a 2-for-3 day with two doubles and two outfield assists," he said.

But less than two months later, just as Reddick was about to take a cruise for the New Year’s Day holiday, he got a phone call from new Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington.

Reddick, who hit .280 with seven home runs and 28 runs batted in, was dealt to the Athletics as part of a package that sent Oakland relief pitcher Andrew Bailey to Boston. Even though Reddick’s name had came up in trade talks in the past, he was surprised when the Athletics and Red Sox made the deal.

"I thought it was going to happen in the winter meetings," he said. "I was getting ready to go on a cruise for New Year’s and got a phone call the day before. Ben Cherington called and said, ‘I’m sad to be the one giving you this news, but we need a closer.’

You have mixed feelings. I was shocked at first. But that’s the way the business goes."

Oakland GM Billy Beane made him feel welcomed to his organization, Reddick said, and added the Athletics would give him every opportunity to play.

"I’m looking forward to it," Reddick said.

The Athletics have veteran Coco Crisp — also a former member of the Red Sox — in center field and signed veteran Manny Ramirez, another ex-Sox, to a free agent contract. Also on the roster are veteran Johnny Gomes and Cuban expatriate Yoenis Cespedes, a highly sought after free agent outfielder.

One of the issues Reddick has had to work out is finding a place to live. He had a place lined up in Fort Myers, Fla., where the Red Sox train, but then had to make new accommodations when he was traded. Oakland trains in Arizona, and Reddick will move into Bailey’s old digs in Scottsdale

"So that worked out pretty good," he said.

Reddick spent the last three months of the 2011 season with the Red Sox, who led the American League East Division for a time and were involved in a race to the last game with Tampa Bay for a playoff wild card spot.

He even had his first walk-off hit against the Yankees at Fenway Park. But the Red Sox faded down the stretch and missed the playoffs — by one game.

Yet Reddick said he enjoyed the pressure cooker of the pennant race.

"It was a blast," he said. "Twenty-four years old and you’re the starting right fielder for the Red Sox. How many people get to say that, especially in a pennant race? The September thing wasn’t very pretty. But you put it behind you and you keep going. It was definitely fun being in that clubhouse."

Reddick was hit by a pitch on the wrist during an August game in Texas, and the wrist required offseason minor surgery. He’s been undergoing rehabilitation and expects to be 100 percent for the Cactus League.

The Red Sox had asked Reddick throughout the years to improve his plate discipline — not to be so aggressive and swing at borderline pitches.

"The last two years, I think it’s finally shown I’ve improved in the plate discipline area, something they’ve preached about since I got drafted," he said. "That step last year made it why I stayed up there for such a long time and hopefully l can keep working on that."

His outfield play — Reddick can play all three positions — is also one of his strengths. He credits his parents for pushing him to develop his entire game.

"Luckily, I’ve been blessed with all those all-around tools and not being just a hitter. I have my parents to thank for that. They said, ‘play hard and if you’re not going to play hard, then get off the field.’"

It won’t be long before Reddick sees his former teammates again. The Athletics visit Boston for a series April 30-May 2, and Reddick already has been in touch with some of his ex-mates, including starting pitchers Clay Buchholz and John Lackey and star designated hitter David "Big Papi" Ortiz. Reddick’s dad Kenny was a hit with in the clubhouse with the rest of the Red Sox.

"The first thing he said was, ‘what am I going to do now? You’re gone. I can’t live anymore,’" Reddick said of Ortiz’s reaction to the trade. "They love my dad. First night they met, they were like brothers."

But as a competitor, Reddick also can’t wait to get in his swings against the Sox.

"I’ll see those guys in April and hopefully, I’ll beat them up a little bit," he said.