MESA, Ariz. — The “School of Wash” remains in session, even as its professor has moved on to another team.
A’s shortstop Marcus Semien and corner infielder Ryon Healy continue to put in the extra time on the defensive fundamental drills passed down to them from former Oakland infield coach Ron Washington, who joined the Atlanta Braves’ staff over the winter.
Semien and Healy were two of the most dedicated pupils when it came to the pregame sessions Washington ran his infielders through. Now, new A’s third baseman Trevor Plouffe has caught the bug.
The three of them occupy a patch of grass near home plate at Hohokam Stadium, form a triangle about 15 feet apart from each other, and, while on their knees, roll grounders back and forth, fielding them with their bare hands. They keep it light-hearted and fun while also exchanging notes with each other.
Plouffe, who spent the past seven seasons with the Minnesota Twins, noticed Semien working with Washington before games last season when the A’s played the Twins.
“I saw Marcus doing it last year, and I think it helped him a lot,” Plouffe said. “I had a similar program with Gene Glynn, who was our infield coach in Minnesota. Without Wash being here, I talked to (Semien) at FanFest and said, ‘Let’s keep that going,’ and he was all about it.”
It’s a way for Plouffe to bond with his new teammates in the infield. Semien will be playing to his left all season, while the plan is for Healy to get lots of time at first base along with spelling Plouffe occasionally at third.
Chip Hale, the A’s new infield coach who returned to Oakland’s staff after two years managing the Arizona Diamondbacks, will put his stamp on how his players prepare for games. But he gives a thumbs-up to them continuing the habits that Washington instilled.
“I think it’s great,” Hale said. “Number one, having Ron last year as their infield guy. I know Marcus and Ryon have a really, really good work ethic. … I think Ron sort of gave them a good program. They all, especially talking to Marcus and Ryon, they’re really looking for a veteran guy, like Trevor, to give them some tips. As a coach and an instructor, sometimes the best teacher you can be is relying on some of your veteran guys that can communicate to the younger guys.”
Plouffe, 30, said he did some of the same drills with Glynn in Minnesota as Washington did with A’s players, with some different wrinkles tailored to his routine. As the A’s begin official full-squad workouts Sunday, he’s hoping other teammates show a willingness to join in.
“You’ve got to try to lead by example in some aspects, and I think little stuff like that goes a long way,” Plouffe said.
Washington joined the A’s staff as a part-time coach midseason in 2015, hired mainly to tutor Semien, who struggled defensively through much of that first year as the A’s shortstop. Semien, 26, made big strides last season, cutting his error total from 35 to 21, and it’s worth watching this season if he can maintain his defensive progression without Washington around.
It’s apparent that Semien remains willing to put the extra time in. And he’s eager to soak up what he can from a veteran like Plouffe, who broke into the majors as a shortstop before eventually shifting to third.
“For me, a lot of the stuff I did with Wash helped me improve. Trevor has stuff that he liked that helped him improve in the past,” Semien said. “I think all of us have different routines that we like. I like to take bits and pieces from everybody.”