Oakland A's

A’s Jed Lowrie making smooth transition to second base

A’s second baseman Jed Lowrie reacted instinctively when a ball hit sharply by Milwaukee’s Orlando Arcia ricocheted off reliever Liam Hendriks on Saturday. Lowrie charged the ball, fielded it and flipped it with his glove to first base for the out.

“Desperate times, right?” Lowrie said.

It’s a play Lowrie can make this season now that he’s back on the right side of the infield. The A’s reacquired Lowrie, their shortstop in 2013 and 2014, in a trade with the Houston Astros in November. But they already have Marcus Semien at shortstop, meaning Lowrie is preparing to spend the season mostly at second base, where he has played only 58 games in his eight major-league seasons.

Lowrie said he still has to think about where to go on certain plays, such as hits to the outfield and bunts, that become instinctual with more time at a position. But overall, he said the transition is “feeling right where it should.”

“It looks like it’s riding a bike for him,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said.

One of the main differences between the left side of the infield and second base is turning double plays with a runner bearing down on your blind side. Lowrie said he and Semien have worked on that play, and Lowrie executed the turn on an inning-ending double play in the fourth inning against the Brewers on Saturday. The game ended in an 8-8 tie.

Lowrie’s move to second coincides with new rules governing slides at second base. Runners must make a “bona fide” attempt to reach and stay on the base, contact the ground before reaching the base and avoid altering their path to initiate contact with the fielder. If it’s determined the runner fails to make that attempt, both he and the batter can be called out.

The change comes after a high-profile play in last year’s National League Division Series in which then-Dodgers infielder Chase Utley broke the right leg of Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada while sliding into second trying to break up a double play. Lowrie on Saturday said the new rule is “a good thing for the game all around.”

“It still allows guys to go in hard and affect double plays without sliding so maliciously,” Lowrie said. “I’ve had so many slides where guys, I mean, there’s zero intent of touching the base. They’re 6 feet off the base and 6 feet past the base. That to me isn’t baseball. You have to touch all the bases, right? So I think this rule makes sense.”

Lowrie missed two months while playing for Houston in 2012 when he suffered right leg injuries covering second base on a force play in San Francisco. He said he also supports an aspect of the new rules that makes the “neighborhood play” eligible for instant-replay review, meaning fielders actually must touch second base turning a double play.

“It’s one of those things that almost snowballed: At the beginning, (runners) were coming in so hard that they allowed the neighborhood rule because they didn’t want guys to get hurt,” Lowrie said. “So why not just protect guys on the front side, and make them touch the base?”

Hill struggles – Left-hander Rich Hill, projected as the A’s No. 2 starter, made his spring debut Saturday, allowing three walks, two hits and a run in 1 1/3 innings.

Hill called his outing “pretty poor” but added: “If I get on top of the ball and throw it downhill, it’s a different story. So that’s what I’m going to work on going into next outing.”

Et cetera – First baseman-left fielder Mark Canha (back) played catch and swung a bat for the first time since last week and said he “felt really good.”

▪ Catcher Josh Phegley (shoulder) is scheduled to make his spring debut behind the plate Monday.

▪ Right-hander Sonny Gray will make his Cactus League debut next Wednesday against the White Sox.