The box score from the A’s 5-4, 11-inning loss to the Boston Red Sox would tell you that shortstop Marcus Semien made his 10th error of the season, which as of Tuesday afternoon led all major-league players. A’s third-base coach Mike Gallego would tell you a little bit more.
Asked about Semien’s defense Tuesday, Gallego, who works with A’s infielders, had some extensive comments about the young shortstop. Semien is playing shortstop every day in the majors for the first time, and while his error total is high, he’s certainly not the only A’s player making them. The A’s entered Tuesday’s game with 34 errors, seven more than any other major-league team.
Semien’s error Monday was a tough one. With Dustin Pedroia trying to score on David Ortiz’s single to left-center in the fourth inning, Semien took a throw from Billy Burns at the edge of the infield dirt and relayed home. Catcher Stephen Vogt tried to pick the low throw and swipe a tag on Pedroia in one motion, but the ball bounced past him, allowing Ortiz to advance to second base.
On Tuesday, Gallego reflected on the play in detail. Semien, he said, “could have been just in a slightly better position on making that throw. He kind of caught it, looked, and then threw as opposed to throwing as he’s catching. But that’s going to come with experience … He knew it right away, that there was that maybe slight hesitation, and he probably could’ve gotten a better, stronger throw off. He still made a decent throw.”
Part of the hesitation could have come from surprise that Pedroia was even trying to score on the play. Pedroia was on first base but running on the full-count pitch to Ortiz, and the notoriously hard-nosed player did not slow down rounding third base as Burns came over to field Ortiz’s single.
In addition to Pedroia “always trying to get that extra base,” Gallego said Burns “might have sat back on the ball a little.” He said he hadn’t talked to Burns about the play, but Burns might have been making sure he kept the ball in front of him, or might have been taken a little by surprise himself by Pedroia’s aggressiveness.
Gallego said he’d watched a replay of the play, and Semien “peeked back at Pedroia” at one point. But he pointed out that Boston third-base coach Brian Butterfield waited to send Pedroia until the last minute, which Semien probably didn’t see because he was looking for the throw from Burns.
“It was a late send, so no one really knew what was developing unless you were watching the third-base coach,” Gallego said. “As a shortstop, your head’s gotta be on a swivel and you’re going back and forth, so I don’t know if (Semien) exactly knew or just kind of saw it as he was catching the ball.
“I thought he could have been in a hair better position, and he would have gotten off even a better throw. But he still made a decent throw. These are things he’s only going to get better at.”
Overall, Gallego said he isn’t concerned about Semien’s error total at this point. Gallego said he’s paying more attention to how Semien, in his first season as a major-league shortstop, is dealing with the intricacies of that job – such as learning his pitchers’ tendencies and how to play opposing hitters, making adjustments depending on counts and commanding the infield as the de facto captain.
“Mentally, I think he’s handled the situation very well,” Gallego said. “Physically, there’s been a few errors that I’m sure he would want back. For me, what I’m going to continue to tell Marcus is to not be concerned with errors. Stay aggressive.
“In order to play shortstop in the big leagues, you have to be aggressive and fearless. Part of the game is there’s going to be some errors. And for me, a good shortstop is going to make errors because he’s going to get to more balls.”
Manager Bob Melvin has said the A’s main defensive focus with Semien this spring was on his throwing. Gallego said Semien has a strong arm, but his throws during the spring had a lot of movement on them. Semien has worked on creating backspin on the ball to control it better and “done an excellent job with that,” Gallego said.
Now, Gallego said, he wants to see Semien “owning the position, allowing himself to be that captain of the infield.”
“There’s a lot of things that come with being a major-league shortstop for a winning caliber-type baseball team,” Gallego said. “But this kid, when you talk to him, you look him in the eye, there’s no fear in there. He wants to learn. He understands when he makes his mistakes. And he’s going to be better when he doesn’t repeat a mistake.”
Tuesday’s lineups – The A’s lineup against Justin Masterson:
And the Red Sox’s lineup against Drew Pomeranz:
Pregame injury notes – A.J. Griffin (shoulder) was expected to play catch on the field Tuesday, and Eric O’Flaherty (shoulder) could play catch Wednesday. Ben Zobrist (knee) took infield reps and batting practice on the field.
Sean Doolittle (shoulder) will make his first appearance in a rehabilitation game Thursday at Class-AStockton. And Jarrod Parker (elbow fracture) is expected to see Dr. James Andrews on Monday following his last setback in his recovery from a second Tommy John surgery.