Athletics

How Marcus Semien has thrived as A's everyday leadoff hitter this year

How Marcus Semien has thrived as A's everyday leadoff hitter this year

OAKLAND -- A's manager Bob Melvin could probably talk about Marcus Semien forever and still not run out of superlatives.

Oakland's shortstop is one of the hardest workers in all of baseball, as evidenced by his massive improvement defensively over the past few years. This season, Semien has taken his offensive production to another level as well.

The 28-year-old is slashing .280/.365/.443 with 10 home runs, 36 RBI, and 48 runs scored. He's on pace to set career-highs in nearly every major offensive category, including hits, walks, runs, and RBI.

"He's just become a complete player," Melvin praised. "Offensively, defensively, he's got leadership qualities, he's out there every day. There are a lot of things to like about Marcus Semien. He continues to get better and I don't see that slowing down either. He's very aware of what he needs to work on and what it takes to get better.

"Nobody works harder."

It probably seems crazy now, but Oakland actually entered the season without a set leadoff hitter. That changed in a hurry, as Semien grabbed the role and didn't let go.

"I just want to get on base," he said. "That's what I've been trying to do more of this year and just stay in the strike zone. ... I've been walking more too. I'm just trying to get on base for the middle of the order."

Semien has certainly done that. He is currently riding a career-high 14-game hitting streak, batting .390 with three home runs, four doubles, and 11 RBI during that stretch.

"Better direction, better timing with the fastball and then being able to take the pitches out of the zone, those offspeed pitches," Semien explained. "You get in better counts, and when you're catching up to the fastball and hitting in good counts, good things will happen."

Semien's .365 on-base percentage ranks fifth among major league shortstops. Prior to this season, he had never posted an on-base percentage higher than .325.

"I used to lead him off against lefties and not righties," Melvin said. "Now we're comfortable leading him off (against either). ... He sets the table for a lot of guys. You see the RBI through the lineup. A lot of it has to do with him being on base quite a bit."

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Semien has also reduced his strikeout rate from a year ago, punching out just 47 times in 296 at-bats (15.9 percent). Last season, he struck out 131 times in 632 at-bats (20.7 percent).

"I can't say enough about what he means to this team," Melvin said. "He hits the ball the other way. If you shift on him, he'll shoot the ball in the hole. He's just very aware of what's going on out there and he shows up on both ends."

Mike Fiers gets warm reception in first appearance since outing Astros

Mike Fiers gets warm reception in first appearance since outing Astros

If Sunday afternoon was any indication, the public has Mike Fiers' back.

In the A's right-hander's first appearance of spring training and first time toeing the rubber since blowing the whistle on the Houston Astros sign-stealing scandal, Fiers was cheered by the fans when he took the field against the Giants at Hohokam Park.

Fiers, who has received criticism from some and even death threats, said it was nice to feel the support from the fans.

While the reception was nice, Fiers is focused on the A's reaching new heights in 2020.

“I try to put it behind me. We have to focus on 2020," Fiers said, via MLB.com. "Our season is coming up pretty quick, so we need to focus on baseball and get ready,” Fiers said. “In the past, we’ve started off slow and it’s halted us late in the year. The earlier we can get ready, the better off we’re going to be.”

On the mound, Fiers worked two efficient innings. He threw 19 pitches (12 strikes) and retired all six batters he faced.

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Fiers might face a different reaction when it's not a spring training game, but for now, it appears the fans are glad Fiers outed the Astros.

The Astros will visit the A's from March 30-April 1 in the second series of the season.

Khris Davis Q&A: A's slugger discusses teammates, favorite breakfast

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Khris Davis Q&A: A's slugger discusses teammates, favorite breakfast

MESA, Ariz. -- Khris Davis remains one of the most influential bats in the A's lineup. And not just because of his long-ball potential.

Teammates bookending him in the lineup also typically see better pitches when “K.D.” is leaving the yard at a frequent clip.

The designated hitter is ready to put a rough 2019 behind him in order to get back to being the feared masher he was in the previous three seasons.

Davis is a rare interviewee, but this Q&A gave us a great chance to get to know him better at spring training.

NBC Sports Bay Area: Teammate you would trust most to babysit your children?
Khris Davis: Oh, man. I’ll go with [Matt] Chapman. Because he’s actually really good with kids.

How many times can you wear the same jeans without washing them?
I’d say as soon as they get dirty. So probably five times. You’re supposed to wear them until they get dirty.

If you could clone yourself, what would you make that clone do?
Go to school ... finish up my school.

The bat you use, why did you choose it?
I got that model from [A’s coach] Mark Kotsay actually -- he gave it to me. I was in the minor leagues with the [Milwaukee] Brewers, He was a major leaguer at the time. The first time I used it, I hit a home run, and I fell in love. It’s an L162, kind of a custom model. 34 Inches, 31.5 ounces.

Were you named after anybody?
No.

Best smell of baseball season?
I’ll say the baseball or leather. I like the leather smell.

Can you still write in cursive?
Yes. I don’t personally choose to, but I can.

Teammate you would assume spends the most time personal grooming?
I hope it’s not me, with the braids, high maintenance. I’ll go with [Chad] Pinder, but there’s a lot of choices. Everybody in there takes care of themselves.

Only one breakfast for the rest of your life, what’s on that plate?
Pancakes.

If you were a media member covering the A’s spring training, what would your No. 1 story be?
I’m not sure. It’s been a quiet offseason -- maybe that’s the story? There it is!

Amount of time on average you spend preparing for the opposing pitchers?
I like to time him up on deck. I like to watch a little video. Nothing excessive, including batting practice. I’d say probably 30 minutes. It’s nothing crazy, I’m not like a studier. I just want to see different things, like his release, his arm angle, and see what his stuff does.

Can MLB players be friends with their coaches?
Yeah, absolutely. I am friends with all of our coaches.

One MLB player you’d be a fan of if you didn’t play?
I like hitters. [Cody] Bellinger is pretty nasty.

Best way to split a lunch or dinner tab with a teammate? We’re told you’re pretty generous?
I do offer to pay, but hopefully, somebody is there to pick me up and join. Share maybe? The veterans should take care of the younger guys, obviously, but it’s nice if there’s multiple veterans, right?