SAN FRANCISCO — The spotlight focused on Marcus Semien’s defense when the season began, no surprise given the improvement needed there from a year ago.
However, it’s the offensive numbers put up by the A’s shortstop that now demand attention. Semien smacked his 15th homer in Monday’s 8-3 victory over the Giants, tying his career high from last season though Oakland has yet to even reach the halfway point of this season. He’s the American League’s leading home run hitter among shortstops.
Semien happened to go deep Monday off Jeff Samardzija, the player for whom he was traded when the A’s acquired the shortstop and three others from the White Sox in December 2014.
“Every time I face him I know that’s the guy I was traded for,” Semien said.
His defense has improved, due largely to the dedicated daily work he puts in with A’s infield coach Ron Washington. After committing a Major League-high 35 errors last season, Semien has committed just eight through 76 games this year. He’s hardly among the game’s elite glove men at his position, but he’s become a solid defender.
“He’s continuing to put up numbers,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “You look at shortstops. The defenders … are they offensive guys? He’s both. He’s turned himself into both. He’s a true two- way player. I don’t know how his name doesn’t come up as a potential All-Star.”
Would Melvin lobby for him?
“If I’m given the chance I would, for sure.”
There’s tough competition among AL shortstops, and it’s hard to envision Semien making the Midsummer Classic. Boston’s Xander Bogaerts leads in fan voting to start. Cleveland’s Francisco Lindor and Minnesota’s Eduardo Nunez are having good offensive years, and a big name such as Carlos Correa could get consideration even though he’s not having a dominant year.
But Semien has developed into one of the A’s most dangerous offensive threats. And, similar to last year, he’s been the A’s iron man. He’s the only Athletic to start all 76 games. He’s played all but three of the A’s total innings at shortstop.
Melvin was asked if he ever checks in with Semien about needing a day off.
“I don’t check with him at all, because he gets upset,” Melvin said with a smile. “He wants to play 162 games. There are very few guys like that now. But if I do feel like he’s run down, maybe the bat’s a little slow through the zone, I would give him a day off. But I’m not seeing that right now.”