The Oakland A’s got some encouraging news on the injury front this weekend, even as the team was forced to take an indefinite hiatus due to a positive coronavirus test.
On Saturday, with the A’s playing a doubleheader against the Houston Astros, shortstop Marcus Semien was scratched from the starting lineup before the second game due to soreness in his left side. He underwent an MRI later that day.
Fortunately, the MRI “revealed no serious issue” and shouldn’t keep him out long, reported Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic on Sunday. It’s not an oblique strain, reported Susan Slusser of the S.F. Chronicle later that day, and Semien is not currently expected to need a stint on the injured list.
Slusser provided a further update on Monday: “[General manager David] Forst says Semien is feeling a little better. He has had this same issue each of the past two years and has played through it.”
Semien, who turns 30 in a couple weeks, is known for his durability. Saturday’s absence ended his streak of 276 consecutive games played, which was the longest active streak on the team and just five shy of the current MLB leader (Whit Merrifield). Semien missed half of 2017 to a fractured wrist, but before that he sat out only 10 total games in 2015-16 combined.
On top of playing every day, the Bay Area native is also known for being a star. Last season he finished third in the AL MVP voting, the highest placement of any A’s player since Miguel Tejada won the award in 2002. He’s off to a slow start this summer, with a .285 OBP and a far-below-average 82 wRC+, but he’s still posted positive fWAR and provided some big moments including a 13th-inning walk-off hit against the Astros.
While this promising health update would be great news for the A’s in regard to any player, it’s especially important for Semien. Oakland is deep at every position except shortstop, especially after having traded out-of-favor prospects Jorge Mateo and Franklin Barreto the last few months. Without Semien they might have to turn to veteran scrap-heap stopgap Nate Orf, currently at alternate camp in San Jose, or shoehorn another infielder into the most difficult non-catcher position on the diamond.
On Saturday, third baseman Matt Chapman shifted over to short — perhaps he could handle it and acceptably fill that role, but it would come at the expense of removing the best defender in baseball from his primary position. Another option floated by Slusser is Sheldon Neuse, a third baseman who showed promise at second base last year but hasn’t seen regular time at short since 2017 in Single-A ball.
On the current MLB roster, Chad Pinder and Tony Kemp are the main backup infielders, but Kemp has never played an inning of SS in the pros and Pinder hasn’t been a regular at the position since 2016 in Triple-A. There’s also rookie Vimael Machin, who played 47 games at SS last year in Double-A, but he’s barely managed to get playing time at all and might have been a stretch as a long-term everyday replacement.
There is a silver lining amid this nasty storm cloud of personal injury and team virus, though, and it’s that they’re happening at the same time. The team sat out Sunday and won’t play again until at least Thursday, giving Semien a chance to heal and minimize the length of any absence he might require.