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Healy emerges as unlikely face of youth movement

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Ryon Healy has had a heck of a season already. The A’s won 4-3 on Saturday thanks to his home run. (Ben Margot/AP)

OAKLAND — As Ryon Healy stood in front of his locker in the Coliseum clubhouse, the rookie still had whipped cream splashed across his hair and shirt.

“It really didn’t hit me until I rounded second and I saw [third base coach Ron] Wash[ington] going crazy,” admitted Healy after he earned his first Gatorade and pie bath in just his ninth game with the Oakland Athletics.

About 15 minutes earlier, with the scored tied 3-3, Healy crushed a solo home run over the jagged edge in left-center field to give the A’s a 4-3 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday night.

“He went up there with fire in his eyes in a tie game,” manager Bob Melvin said of Healy, who was in the middle of walkoff rallies on back-to-back nights.

On Friday, Healy scored the winning run in the 13th inning after Coco Crisp sent a tailing line drive into left field to secure a 1-0 win.

Promoted on the first day of the second half, not even Healy himself could have imagined how quickly he’d go from an organizational afterthought to one of the poster boys of the A’s youth movement.

“My timetable [for getting here] was a little bit longer than the one that they had me on, which has been really nice,” said Healy, who parlayed a monster first half into the starting job at third base in Oakland.

When the season began, the 24-year-old wasn’t even the starting third baseman in Double-A. With 2014 first-round pick Matt Chapman stationed at the hot corner, Healy played first base on Opening Day.

While Chapman was the A’s home run champ of the spring, Healy didn’t even earn an invite to big-league camp. His assignment to the Midland Rockhounds marked the second consecutive season he’d started the year in Double-A.

“I just kind of had to let it fuel me,” Healy said. “[I] really just put a little chip on my shoulder and use that as motivation to prove people wrong that I didn’t deserve to be there and also use it as an opportunity to get better on every given day.”

Healy knew he had to produce if he was going to escape the Texas League and that’s exactly what he did. The 2013 third-round pick hit his way to Triple-A by the middle of May, posting a .338/.409/.628 slash line in 36 games.

When he joined the Nashville Sounds, Renato Nunez, who MLB.com ranks as the No. 5 prospect in the club’s farm system, was blocking his path at third. Healy didn’t let up, hitting .318 and piling up 23 extra-base hits in 49 games.

Even as his breakout first-half earned him a trip the All-Star Futures Game, Healy insisted that he never saw his big league promotion coming.

“I don’t think I ever really thought about it to be honest,” Healy said. “… It’s just something that you hope is in the future, but you don’t know how immediate. So, you just focus on what you have in front of you.”

The Futures Game — when he went 2-for-3 with a double — was the last time Healy appeared in a minor league contest.

While it was his bat that forced the right-handed hitter into Oakland’s plans far ahead of schedule, Melvin has been equally impressed with Healy’s glove.

“He’s a fighter over there, and a lot of times you’ll see a guy playing out of position and you can see they’re a little apprehensive,” Melvin said of Healy, who played 44 games at first and 22 at third in the minor leagues in 2016. “That’s not the case with him.”

On his first day with the A’s, Healy immediately enrolled in the School of Wash.

“He’s doing a lot of work with Wash, which helps right away certainly with knowing where you need to be and playing certain positions and confidence wise,” Melvin said.

Equally confident at both infield corners, Healy soaks up as much knowledge as he can during his early-afternoon lessons with the resident infield guru.

“Oh, I love it.” Healy said with a smile. “I love going out there and working with him. His energy is really vibrant and he’s a lot of fun to work with.”

With Healy now playing alongside shortstop Marcus Semien — Washington’s most famous pupil — the left side of the infield is oozing with power and potential.

As the club languishes in fourth place in the American League West, Melvin and his bosses continue to show that they’re ready to offer auditions to promising young players.

Sean Manaea and Daniel Mengden have grabbed spots in the rotation and Dillon Overton has already made a pair of cameos.

Now Bruce Maxwell has been added to that list.

On Saturday, the club placed Stephen Vogt on the family medical leave list and promoted the 25-year-old backstop.

“It’s always nice to get a guy here when he’s playing well,” Melvin said of Maxwell, who hit .467 and homered seven times in 14 July games for the Sounds.

Melvin wouldn’t guarantee that Maxwell’s stay will be a long one, noting that the rookie and Matt McBride are both candidates for demotion when Vogt returns in a couple days.

But Melvin also hinted that Maxwell — like Healy — figures prominently into the organization’s long-term plans.

“He’s got a lot of ability and I think he’s got a nice little future ahead of him.”

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