Athletics GM Forst Says Semien Has it Right When Talking About Baseball in 2020

John Hickey

The 2020 window for success for the Oakland A’s has shrunk from 162 games to 60, and it seems that shortstop Marcus Semien is determined that the A’s make the most of the limited time available.

A’s general manager David Forst, talking Friday with Oakland media in advance of Saturday’s opening of three weeks of workouts that will get the club to a much-delayed opening day, said he and his shortstop had a lengthy conversation about the stakes of the season, one in which the A’s have high expectations.

Forst said the two men were talking about the burden being put on players in terms not just of testing and travel but routines. Forst said he told Semien he hoped the players would be asking a lot of each other.

“We are asking a lot of them to change their routines to be safe,” Forst said. “I was very impressed with his desire to impart the seriousness on his teammates,” Forst said. “He’ll have conversations before we arrive and after we arrive with everybody to make sure that everyone knows what’s at stake.

“And what he said that I appreciated the most was he understands that it’s not just the players being exposed. It’s the staff. It’s the coaches, the manager, the trainers, the clubhouse staff. Everybody is in this together. And that was something that Marcus relayed to me unsolicited. I really appreciated that. And I trust that he will have these conversations with his teammates, and hopefully we will have other guys step up and do the same.”

Semien, San Francisco-born and Berkeley-raised, is in the final year of his contract before he hits free agency for the first time. Because he, No. 1 starter Mike Fiers and closer Liam Hendriks could all be taken away by free agency after this season, 2020 could be a make-or-break season for the A’s.

While many big-league clubs started their workouts Friday, the A’s were still finishing up the coronavirus testing on their roster Friday afternoon and will have pitchers and catchers gather Saturday afternoon. There are 20 pitchers and four catchers, and as part of their new social distancing routine, Forst said players are being told they can’t arrive at the clubhouse more than 45 minutes before they’re expected to be on the field working out.

For players who in many cases are used to arriving 5-plus hours early, this is going to be a change.

Other tidbits from Frost on Friday:

--The club still does not have an alternative site to park the players who aren’t going to be in the main player pool. Stockton, the home of the A’s Class-A California League team, remains in the competition, but Forst said other sites, including in Alameda County, are being considered. “Obviously the situation with the virus is a factor,” Forst said, adding that San Joaquin County and Stanislaus County sites are being considered. “We’re looking at how each county’s health department is handing things and what their particular orders are when we are looking at open space.”

--Forst said he didn’t know how many of the 42 players scheduled to be with the team will be taking part in the full workout Sunday. He did say, however, that no A’s player has opted out of playing this season, and Forst said he doesn’t expect that to change between now and Sunday.

--Teams are allowed to play as many as three exhibition games against other clubs. The A’s and Giants are likely to play two against each other, and the possibility is that they could play a third. Meanwhile the other competition will be intrasquad games, and Forst said he’s not sure when that might start.

--Of the trade of second baseman Jorge Mateo to the Padres earlier this week, Forst said that it was clear the team was top-heavy at second base and a move needed to be made. While the A’s talked with several clubs, San Diego GM A. J. Preller was the most aggressive early in the process. That deal leaves Tony Kemp and Franklin Barreto in a probable platoon, backed up by Rule 5 infielder Vimael Machin.

--Forst said that trainer Nick Paparesta and pitching coach Scott Emerson were on 20 different Zoom calls Friday trying to get all the necessary information about what each pitcher has been doing to get ready to resume play. “They were just nailing down exactly what guys have done, where they’re at,” he said. “Those are conversations you (usually) have face-to-face, and that’s exactly what we’re trying to limit.” He said Emerson has each pitchers’ work sketched out for the next three weeks but admits everyone knows “it will not go like that.”

--As far as is known, the A’s come into the workouts healthy. But injuries happen, and they are more a concern during a shortened workout period than ever. “We’ve talked about the training staff about that,” Forst said. “We are going to have to adjust how hard these guys go early on. I mean, they are like great horses that have been in the starting blocks for three months. They’re anxious to get out there, and we’re going to have to pull in the reins a little bit.”

--The A’s have put up tents in the F Parking Lot and transferred the entire weight room there, the better to keep workout stations socially distant while allowing players to go through their weight training routines.

--While manager Bob Melvin told SI earlier in the week that the club would be going with a five-man rotation of Mike Fiers, Sean Manaea, Frankie Montas, Jesus Luzardo and A.J. Puk, Forst would not rule out a six-man rotation. He did say that the expectation is that the starters will be as ready to go come opening day as they would be in a full-length spring training.

--Players will be divided between the A’s regular clubhouse and the Raiders clubhouse, which is up one level at the Coliseum. “There is so much hands-on work going into this, and rightfully so,” Forst said. “It’s worth trying. But it is difficult. I’m looking forward to getting feedback from the players when they get into the clubhouse tomorrow. We will absolutely do everything we can to make them comfortable, because none of this is going to work if they don’t feel like they can be there, comfortable and do their job.”

Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3

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