MESA, Ariz. -– Bob Melvin took his seat for his postgame media session Friday, and it was clear what was on the A's manager's mind.
Asked about the performance of young left-hander Sean Manaea against the Los Angeles Angels, Melvin quickly re-directed the conversation toward another area of the team.
“Our defense has been putrid the last few games,” Melvin said following an 11-3 loss. “The defensive numbers this spring haven’t been good. As hard as we’ve been working on it, it’s frustrating.”
Friday marked the third consecutive game the A’s have allowed double-digit runs. That speaks to subpar pitching over that stretch, but some of the damage in that department is taking place with minor league pitchers on the mound in the later stages of games.
The defense has to be a growing concern with Opening Night just 10 days away. The A’s committed four errors Friday, giving them 17 over their last eight games alone. They lead the majors with 38 errors this spring, coming off a 2015 season where they committed a league-high 126 errors.
“We missed three cutoff men today. It was just one thing after another,” Melvin said. “We’ll continue to work, and it will be addressed. We can’t beat ourselves. We might not be a great defensive team, but we can’t be a bad defensive team. We have to make the routine plays. Pick it up and throw it to the next guy.”
The shaky play began with Manaea himself, after he fielded Geovany Soto’s bunt and threw wildly to first on a play he should have probably eaten the ball on. Center fielder Coco Crisp missed a cutoff man in the fourth, Marcus Semien bounced a throw to first from shortstop in the sixth and right fielder Jake Smolinski missed a cutoff man in the eighth.
There were other misplays that didn’t go in the books as errors as well. Yunel Escobar’s hard shot in the second deflected off the glove of second baseman Jed Lowrie. It was correctly ruled a hit, but at the same time, appeared to be a play that should have been made. Not long after, Oakland lost an out on a tailor-made double play when Semien’s feed to second was a bit high and forced Lowrie to take longer on his relay to first. And in the third, Manaea had Andrelton Simmons picked off first, but first baseman Yonder Alonso double-pumped as he tried to get the ball out of his glove and his throw to second wasn’t in time.
They’re all common mistakes that will happen from time to time, but they’re adding up in bunches for a team that shot itself in the foot far too often last season in the field.
Semien has drawn rave reviews from Melvin and infield coach Ron Washington this spring, but his throws to first lately have been spotty, reminiscent of his early 2015 struggles. He’s committed just three errors this spring, but he’s short-hopped a few throws that have been scooped.
“You’re going to have times when you make low throws,” Semien said. “I had a couple today, it’s no big deal. Move on to the next day.”
Added Melvin: “He’s a little bit short on some of his throws. It’s just a matter of letting it go.”
To be fair, the A’s got a gem of a play late in the game from hotshot third base prospect Matt Chapman, who made a diving backhand stop, got to his feet and fired across the diamond to get the out at first.
Right now, Melvin will settle for the routine plays being made without incident.