Athletics

Improvement on defense of Jed Lowrie, Marcus Semien a big part of A's success

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USATSI

Improvement on defense of Jed Lowrie, Marcus Semien a big part of A's success

OAKLAND — A's middle infielders Jed Lowrie and Marcus Semien are primarily known for their bats, but they have both made great strides defensively this season.

Lowrie has only committed three errors all year and leads Major League second basemen with a .994 fielding percentage. Semien ranks third among American League shortstops in both defensive WAR and defensive runs saved.

“Both guys have been real consistent for us,” said manager Bob Melvin. “Couple that with the two corner guys, it's made our defense 180 degrees better than it was a couple years ago, and even last year.”

Semien in particular has made staggering improvements. Last season, he had a defensive WAR of -0.4, with -9 defensive runs saved, both third-worst among AL shortstops. This year, he has flipped the script, ranking third-best with a 1.9 dWAR and 9 DRS. He is also second among all AL players in the latest SABR Defensive Index rankings, behind only Matt Chapman.

“I feel like I've improved,” Semien said. “I'm throwing the ball better. ... The corner guys make it easier on me -- Chapman's range and [Matt] Olson's length and athleticism. It's kind of a combination of all of that.”

Added Melvin: “Now he's like a good umpire. You don't even notice him. He's just making all the plays.”

Lowrie has been just as impressive, rating third among AL second basemen in the SABR Defensive Index rankings. While he doesn't have the greatest range, he uses positioning and anticipation to make just about every play within his reach.

“I take a lot of pride in [my defense],” Lowrie said. “I try to be a well-rounded player. ... I've always focused on [the first step], because my raw range isn't what other guys' is in the big leagues. I've relied on anticipation and first step.”

“He's an All-Star for a reason,” added Melvin. “A lot of the All-Star qualities he brings to the table include the defensive part.”

Lowrie and Semien have quietly become one of the top middle infield tandems in the league. They have turned 70 double plays together this season, the most of any combination in the AL.

“We have a good rapport,” Lowrie said. “We're on the same page most of the time and I think we have a good sense of what the other guy is thinking.”

“He's very fundamentally sound,” Semien said of Lowrie. “Really smart, positioning is good. He's been doing it for a long time.”

Lowrie and Semien have helped the A's significantly upgrade their overall defense from last season. After finishing last in MLB with 121 errors in 2017, Oakland has cut that number to 81 this year, 17th in the league. That improved defense has been a major part of the A's surprising success in 2018.

A's top pick Logan Davidson among spring training non-roster invitees

A's top pick Logan Davidson among spring training non-roster invitees

The A's aren't playing it safe with 2019 first-round draft pick Logan Davidson.

The No. 29 overall pick is among 10 non-roster players the A's invited to spring training Friday.

Davidson, a shortstop, isn't on the A's 40-man roster, but the invite will give him a chance to compete in big league camp. Barring an incredible showing in the Cactus League, the A's No. 7 prospect won't break camp with the A's. But this opportunity allows him to try to impress A's coaches.

In 54 games with the short-season Vermont Lake Monsters, Davidson slashed .239/.345/.332 with seven doubles, four homers and 12 RBI.

[RELATED: A's compare Davidson to Corey Seager]

The other invitee to keep an eye on in camp is A's No. 6 prospect Nick Allen. While small in stature, the middle infielder is an incredible defensive player and could find himself playing for the A's at some point in 2020. While Marcus Semien is blocking Allen's path at shortstop, the 21-year-old could get a look at second base if none of the other in-house options pan out for Oakland.

Three other top-30 prospects were invited to spring training: Outfielder Greg Deichmann (No. 17), right-handed pitcher Brian Howard (No. 22) and right-handed pitcher Parker Dunshee (No. 24).

MLB rumors: A's 'showing interest' in free-agent reliever Sergio Romo

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AP

MLB rumors: A's 'showing interest' in free-agent reliever Sergio Romo

Sergio Romo might be headed back to the Bay Area -- just to the opposite side.

The former Giants relief pitcher is a free agent, and according to MLB Network's Jon Morosi, the A's reportedly are interested in acquiring his services.

Romo, 36, is a 12-year veteran who spent the first nine seasons of his career with the Giants, playing a major role in helping San Francisco win three World Series titles in a span of five years. Over 60 1/3 combined innings with the Marlins and Twins last season, he posted a 3.43 ERA and 1.11 WHIP with 60 strikeouts and 20 saves.

[RELATED: How Forst thinks state of free-agent market will impact A's]

Liam Hendricks has Oakland's closer spot locked down, but with Blake Treinen being non-tendered, there could be one or more openings in the A's bullpen. Given that Romo has filled just about every possible role within a major league bullpen over the course of his career, he could be an ideal fit if the price is right.