Four hours before the first pitch, Ron Washington was once again back on the field, doing what he does best, teaching baseball.
The newest old member of the A’s organization was working with shortstop Marcus Semien, whose 16 errors in the first 43 games of the season have set off alarm bells. Washington was hitting grounders, but he was talking about mindset, too.
“This kid is going to be fine,’’ the former Texas manager said just hours into his return to big league baseball. `This sport is all about rhythm, and was Marcus and Gags (third base coach Mike Gallego) and me have to do is to find his rhythm. Once he does that, things will be fine.’’
Washington worked for the A’s from 1996-2006, most of that as the third base coach and infield coach, and he got a reputation as someone who would work ferociously to help bring out the best defensive abilities an infielder had. Eric Chavez, Miguel Tejada and Mark Ellis all swear by Washington’s work.
“Marcus isn’t the first player to go through this,’’ Washington said. “And he won’t be the last to get through it, either. He’s got all the talent it takes. Just by watching him and talking to him today I can see that.’’
Washington resigned from the Rangers last September after admitting to infidelity to his wife. He needed the time to work on his family life. His family “is great now, really great,’’ but he was missing baseball in the worst way.
So when A’s general manager Billy Beane came calling offering a job to work with the A’s infield defense, with a special focus on Semien, Washington was ready and grateful the A’s reached out to him.
“Resigning was right for me at the time,’’ Washington said. “The thing is, I need baseball. I know that. I was just hoping that baseball needed me a little. Baseball has survived for all this time without me, but I was good to know there was room for me, because this is what I do.’’
Washington said he wasn’t thinking of managing again and isn’t here to be a third base-coach-in-waiting with Gallego having had a stretch of bad decisions and bad luck of late.
“Hey, I had those, too,’’ Washington said. “People think coaches are perfect, but they’re not. I had streaks where I couldn’t do anything right. Then all of a sudden, you get one in-between call that goes your way and you’re back in the saddle again. Gags will be fine.
“And managing again is the furthest thing from my mind. I’m here to help the A’s and Marcus Semien.’’
After his first session with Washington, Semien was impressed.
“He’s got a lot of energy and passion,’’ Semien said. “It’s going to be good.’’
–Kendall Graveman was with the club Friday; he’ll start Saturday’s game. He said that going to Nashville after starting the season with Oakland was good for him. “I was able to locate my fastball on the corners and down,’’ he said. “And I was able to create more separation between the fastball and the changeup. Before the change was about 85 mph, so there was only about a 6 mph difference. Now I’ve got the change down to about 81 mph.’’
–There hasn’t been any baseball activity yet for Ike Davis, on the disabled list with a quad injury. Melvin said that when the team returns home Monday “we’ll have a better idea when he’ll start doing some things.’’
–Semien got a day off, both because he played more than anyone else on the roster with just one non-start all season and because he had the long first workout with Washington.
–Ben Zobrist is due back with the A’s on Monday, coming off the disabled list about a month after knee surgery. When he does, there’s a strong chance he’ll be in the outfield rather than at second base. The A’s have brought up another infielder, Andy Parrino, who started for Semien Friday, and if Coco Crisp goes on the disabled list as expected Saturday to make room for Graveman, the A’s will need the outfield help. Zobrist was due to play left fielder for Triple-A Nashville in Fresno Friday, be the DH for the Sounds Saturday and play second base Sunday.
–The A’s got Parrino on the roster by placing reliever Edward Mujica on the disabled list with a minor fracture of his right thumb. Both the pitcher and the team are optimistic his time on the DL will be brief.