Athletics

Marcus Semien filling void in leadoff spot for A's

Marcus Semien filling void in leadoff spot for A's

As deep and productive as the A's lineup has been this season, the one thing it has lacked is a true leadoff hitter.

The team hopes 23-year-old outfielder Dustin Fowler will eventually fill that role, but for this season, the job belongs to Marcus Semien.

The A's shortstop has started all 43 games this season, batting leadoff in 27 of them. The other 16, he hit second.

While Semien, 27, is not your prototypical leadoff hitter, he has found ways to get on base and score runs. Semien leads the A's with 31 runs scored and three stolen bases, and he ranks second with 51 hits and 10 doubles, and third with a .276 batting average.

Semien has also mixed in some power, belting four home runs, his most recent coming Wednesday night in Boston, and 20 RBI.

The power numbers shouldn't surprise anyone, as Semien has displayed impressive home run prowess in previous seasons, including a career-high 27 in 2016.

Semien has starred in the East Bay ever since high school, when he hit .471 as a junior for St. Mary's College High School in Berkeley. He stayed in Berkeley to play his college baseball at Cal.

Now in his sixth major league season, and fourth with the A's, Semien is on pace to set career marks in hits, walks, doubles, runs, batting average, and on-base percentage. He has reached base safely in 39 of his 43 games.

With all the power hitters in Oakland's lineup, from veterans like Khris Davis and Jed Lowrie to youngsters like Matt Olson and Matt Chapman, it can be easy to overlook Semien's contributions. But the A's offensive production truly begins at the top of the order.

A's Jesús Luzardo's injury a major blow, team must scramble to find options

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A's Jesús Luzardo's injury a major blow, team must scramble to find options

Oakland's already shaky starting rotation took a major blow Wednesday night when it was revealed that 21-year-old left-hander Jesús Luzardo would be shut down for four to six weeks with a rotator cuff strain.

While Luzardo has not yet thrown a major league pitch, the A's top prospect appeared poised to make the starting rotation following a phenomenal spring training. His big league debut will now have to wait and Oakland will have to scramble to shore up its rotation.

In the short term, the competition for the A's number five starter job is likely down to right-handers Chris Bassitt and Aaron Brooks. Bassitt still has a minor league option remaining while Brooks does not, giving the latter a slight edge.

In the bigger picture, the A's will likely have to add another starting pitcher to the mix. Veteran right-hander Edwin Jackson remains available on the free agent market and the team has been in contact with him throughout the offseason. The 35-year-old put together a strong 2018 season in Oakland and was a critical presence in the clubhouse.

As it currently stands, the A's starting rotation features Mike Fiers, Marco Estrada, Brett Anderson, Frankie Montas, and either Brooks or Bassitt. Right-hander Jharel Cotton and southpaws Sean Manaea and A.J. Puk are still recovering from injuries but should be back in the mix sometime this season.

[RELATED: Matt Olson exits game with hand discomfort]

Unfortunately, the A's can't afford to sit around and wait for their potential returns. Signing Jackson has gone from a luxury to a necessity. His return would at least give Oakland four veteran starters to hold down the fort until reinforcements arrive. 

Oakland still features one of the best bullpens in all of baseball, which means they don't need their starters to go more than five innings. They just need pitchers who can keep them in the game early on. Jackson has certainly proven more than capable of that.

A's Matt Olson exits game early vs. Mariners with right hand discomfort

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A's Matt Olson exits game early vs. Mariners with right hand discomfort

BOX SCORE

A lot happened for the A's in Tokyo during the early morning/late hours on Thursday. Not all of it, however, was good.

First baseman and 2018 Gold Glove Award winner Matt Olson exited the A's 5-4 loss to the Mariners due to some discomfort in his right hand: 

A "cause for concern," indeed.

Not too long before Olson's exit, A's general manager David Forst informed reporters top prospect Jesús Luzardo has been shut down for four to six weeks with a rotator cuff strain in his left throwing shoulder:

[RELATED: For Ichiro, MLB career started and ended against the A's]

We will hear more about the severity of Olson's injury soon I'm sure, but this is not a great sign for the Green and Gold.