Athletics

Washington a 'tough loss,' but Semien confident A's will adapt

Washington a 'tough loss,' but Semien confident A's will adapt

Part of the reason A’s shortstop Marcus Semien worked so tirelessly with Ron Washington was because he knew the opportunity wouldn’t last forever.

That became a reality Tuesday as Washington left Oakland’s coaching staff to become the third-base coach for the Braves. Washington, 64, interviewed for Atlanta’s vacant managerial position but instead will now join the staff of new Braves skipper Brian Snitker.

Washington logged long hours working with all of the A’s infielders before every game. But Semien was his No. 1 pupil from the time Washington rejoined the A’s staff in May 2015, and Semien showed major strides defensively in his second season as Oakland’s everyday shortstop.

“He’s helped my career,” Semien said by phone Tuesday. “Things weren’t going well early on defensively when I got to Oakland. Billy Beane brought him in and said, ‘I’ve got a kid with your name written all over him.’

“He told me to just trust the work and you’ll find a comfort zone. Muscle memory helps out with the fundamentals. I wanted to get that muscle memory because I knew he wasn’t going to be with us forever. You want to do as much work with him as you can to get to that point.”

Washington established a work-intensive culture with the A’s infielders that really manifested itself this past spring, when a rotation of players would take the field as early as 7 a.m. for special instruction from Washington, who had served a prior stint as Oakland’s infield and third base coach before becoming the Texas Rangers’ manager in 2007.

Now the key will be for the A’s infielders to carry forth that routine, or tailor one that fits them well individually, without Washington there anymore. That’s especially true for Semien, who seemed to reap the most from the tutelage of the longtime infield instructor.

But Semien pointed out that he’s also picked up knowledge from teammates such as first baseman Yonder Alonso, and that will serve him well moving forward.

“It’s a tough loss for us, but we’ll take what (Washington) taught us, and whoever our new infield coach is, we’ll learn from the new guy,” Semien said.

There could be some intriguing options for manager Bob Melvin when it comes to replacing Washington, who served as both the A’s third base coach and infield coach. Chip Hale, recently dismissed as the Diamondbacks’ manager, has a long history with Melvin and served as his bench coach with the A’s before taking the Arizona job.

Might Walt Weiss, who recently resigned as the Colorado Rockies’ manager, surface as a candidate? Weiss spent the first six years of his playing career as the A’s shortstop and played on three consecutive pennant-winning clubs.

The A’s like to promote from within their own coaching ranks, and Steve Scarsone has done highly respected work managing their Triple-A club. He was an infielder during his major league career. Double-A manager Ryan Christenson also is advancing up the managerial chain in the A’s farm system.

And it’s not like the A’s have to find their new infield and third base coach in the same hire. They could bring someone in to coach infielders and identify a third-base coach from within the organization, or vice versa.

Stephen Piscotty hits first home run of MLB season in A's loss to Mariners

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USATSI

Stephen Piscotty hits first home run of MLB season in A's loss to Mariners

BOX SCORE

It's only fitting the A's opened the 2019 MLB regular season in a slug-fest. 

Oakland flexed its muscles to three home runs Wednesday morning in Tokyo, though the final result wasn't what the team hoped for. Despite out-hitting the Mariners, the A's lost 9-7 in Game 1 of the Opening Series. 

The mini Home Run Derby started with A's right fielder Stephen Piscotty. After 27 long balls in 2018, Piscotty is the owner of the first MLB home run in 2019, a solo shot that gave the A's an early 1-0 lead in the first inning. 

The A's took a 2-0 lead on Mariners starter Marco Gonzales in the second inning, but a five-run third gave Seattle the lead. And then, it was Khris Davis time.

The A's slugger knocked his first homer of the season in the third inning, a two-run shot to center field to cut the deficit to one run.

As he did so often last season, A's third baseman Matt Chapman put on a show with both his bat and glove.

Chapman, the Platinum Glove winner last year, showed off his arm on a Dee Gordon bunt, and three innings later crushed a three-run homer to right field, pulling the A's within two runs in the seventh. 

Mike Fiers took the loss. The A's starting pitcher only lasted three innings and allowed five earned runs. 

[RELATED: A's players talk crushing sushi, baseballs in Japan for Opening Series]

Already though, the A's are making games exciting. Even all the way in Tokyo.

Here are three questions facing A's as 2019 season opens Vs. Mariners

Here are three questions facing A's as 2019 season opens Vs. Mariners

The A's and Mariners are officially just hours away from opening the MLB season in Japan. For those die-hard fans (and insomniacs) who plan to stay up all night to watch the game, here are four questions to keep an eye on:

Who bats third?

Jed Lowrie's departure leaves a huge hole in the middle of the A's lineup. Oakland has a few candidates to fill that void, including newly-acquired second baseman Jurickson Profar. However, Stephen Piscotty and Matt Olson are probably the best options at this point.

With the A's facing left-hander Marco Gonzales in the season opener, expect to see the right-handed hitting Piscotty batting third. If he performs well, it could be his job to lose, though Olson figures to get some opportunities against right-handed pitchers, at least early in the year.

Who starts at catcher?

The A's also lost their starting catcher from last season as Jonathan Lucroy signed with the rival Angels. With Chris Herrmann injured, the starting job will go to either Nick Hundley or Josh Phegley, both of whom performed well in spring training.

Hundley figures to have the edge to start the season due to his better offensive numbers over the years. The 35-year-old has a career OPS of .706, compared to Phegley's .635.

Is Mike Fiers ready to be a number one starter?  

Fiers gets the honor of starting on Opening Day. The 33-year-old is coming off the best season of his career, going 12-8 with a 3.56 ERA between Detroit and Oakland in 2018. He was rewarded with a two-year, $14.1 million contract this offseason.

Throughout his career, Fiers has primarily been a fourth or fifth starter. This year he finally has his chance to be an ace. The right-hander certainly has the right mindset to handle any added pressure, but the A's would like to see him get off to a good start.