OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -Jack Cust had the reputation of a power hitter for almost a decade, impressing scouts with his ability to wait for his pitch and drive it over the fence with ease.
Unfortunately for Cust, 199 of his 204 professional home runs came in the minor leagues before he homered in his debut for the Oakland Athletics on May 6.
Cust didn't stop there. He hit two more last Thursday against Kansas City and then one in each game of a three-game series against Cleveland. A game-ending three-run homer Sunday capped the memorable week, giving Cust six homers in his first seven games with the A's. That's one more than he had hit in his first 70 major league games with four other teams.
But for those who have followed Cust's career, the power is no surprise from the former first-round pick of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
``I first heard of Jack Cust in the Arizona Fall League like in 1999,'' A's outfielder Milton Bradley said. ``Everything I heard about him was that he just hits bombs. When I heard we picked him up, and I thought, 'This is going to pay off.' He comes up and he's just stroking the ball.''
Cust entered Monday night's game against Kansas City 9-for-26 with six homers, a double and six walks since being called up by the A's to replace injured Mike Piazza at designated hitter. Oakland had acquired him this month in a little-publicized deal with San Diego for a player to be named or cash.
Cust's performance is not going unnoticed now that he's off to the best power start of any player in Oakland history. Don Mincher was the previous fastest player to six homers in Oakland, doing it in 47 at-bats in 1970.
``I'm just lucky that I got the opportunity and that I'm hitting the ball well because I could easily come up here and not hit the ball well,'' said Cust, who has had five previous major league call-ups. ``It's baseball. You just don't hit .500 or .600 or whatever. It all evens out. I'm just happy to ride it out as long as I can.''
Cust's power has been a welcome addition to the A's. In fact, he's tied for the team lead in homers with Nick Swisher despite being up for barely more than a week.
Piazza, who has had similar streaks of his own, joked that he might not have a spot in the lineup when he gets healthy. He also had some advice for Cust.
``Just enjoy it,'' Piazza said. ``Just ride it as long as you can. That's how this game is. Don't try to think too much about it. Don't change anything. Don't think. Just keep swinging. Some things you just can't explain.''
Despite great minor league numbers, Cust has had trouble getting a shot in the big leagues in part because he is not adept at playing outfield.
The only time Cust started a season in the majors came in 2004. And he lasted all of one at-bat with Baltimore - a strikeout against Ramiro Mendoza on April 9 - before being sent back down to the minors.
That's been typical of his career. He's spent time in the majors in six of the last seven seasons but never had more than 73 at-bats he had with Baltimore in 2003 in any of those campaigns.
In all, Cust had played 70 games in the majors before the A's called him up. He had five home runs, 23 walks and a .222 average in 144 at-bats.
``I saw him play a lot in the minor leagues. I was always really impressed with him,'' A's second baseman Mark Ellis said. ``I never knew why he didn't get a shot.''
Even though the A's had been intrigued by Cust for more than five years because of his power and patience, the only season he didn't make the majors since his debut in 2001 came two years ago when the A's kept him at Triple-A Sacramento all season.
Scott Hatteberg was entrenched at DH that season. But a spate of injuries gave him the chance this time.
``He's just really come in and given us a shot in the arm,'' A's third baseman Eric Chavez said. ``I'm just glad he's had the opportunity to come up here and get some at-bats. The first time he was here he didn't get a shot. I'm happy he's getting a shot now.''
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