OAKLAND — When his phone rang Friday morning and Marcus Semien saw it was manager Bob Melvin calling, he knew what the topic would be.
Melvin decided it was finally time to give his shortstop a day off, the first for Semien after he had started all of Oakland’s first 96 games. That was the longest season-opening streak of starts for an A’s player since another shortstop, Miguel Tejada, started all 162 games back in 2003.
“Any time you see Skip calling or texting, you know you might be off,” Semien said.
Arismendy Alcantara is starting at short Friday night against Tampa Bay and hitting ninth.
Entering Friday, Semien had manned shortstop in all but three innings that the A’s have played this season. Melvin joked recently that he never bothers to ask Semien if needs a day off because he knows Semien won’t take kindly to the suggestion. But Melvin said he and infield coach Ron Washington, who puts Semien threw a demanding daily routine of fielding drills, had been talking for a while about finding a day to rest Semien.
Semien has improved significantly defensively this season, but five of the 13 errors he’s committed have come in the past eight games alone.
“I think that has something to do with why I’m giving him the day off,” Melvin said. “I think mentally, a little, sometimes it gets away from you. Whether your legs aren’t 100 percent there, and you’re trying to maintain that pace. In this game it’s difficult to do. Sometimes just one day does a guy a world of good.”
Semien has high respect for shortstops who have shown tremendous durability, including Tejada and a former teammate of Semien’s with the White Sox, Alexei Ramirez. But he knew a day off was coming given the errors he’s committed recently and the back-to-back 0-for-4 games he’s turned in.
“I played myself into a day off,” he said. “If Skip says you may need a day off, you need a day off.”
Rich Hill was scheduled to play catch for a third day in a row while wearing protective gear to protect the blister on his left middle finger. Melvin said once the A’s know when Hill can get on the mound for a bullpen session, they’ll have a better idea of when he’ll be able to pitch again.
Catcher Josh Phegley said his right knee is coming along after the surgery he had to remove a cyst. He has good strength in the knee and good lateral movement, but he said he’s still unable to flex the knee fully, which means he can’t get into a catcher’s stance yet.
“It’s taking longer than I hoped,” said Phegley, who added he was hoping to be on a minor league rehab assignment by the time the A’s leave Sunday evening for a nine-game road trip.
He’ll first have to catch a few bullpen sessions when he’s ready, and be able to block pitches, before a rehab assignment is considered. Therefore, there’s no timetable for him to play in games yet.