Young A's benefit from Washington's tutelage

Semien among players to thrive under third-base coach's infield direction

Young A's benefit from Washington's tutelage

SEATTLE -- A's shortstop Marcus Semien had 35 errors in 656 chances in 2015. This year, he has three errors in 212 chances. His fielding percentage of .986 ranks third among American League shortstops so far in 2016.

Tyler Ladendorf is a 28-year-old who's trying to stick with the A's as a player who can be trusted in the outfield and infield. He's a fixture in early infield work and has been diligent in preparation for any chance at playing time he can get.

One thing both A's have in common is Ron Washington, the tireless former Texas Rangers manager who has come back to the A's as a third-base coach and is widely respected as one of the true gurus of infield instruction in the Major Leagues.

"When you have somebody [where] you work with a Marcus Semien in the fashion that [he does] and the younger guys see that, and they saw it in Spring Training, too, he was like the Pied Piper," A's manager Bob Melvin said of Washington.

"He was having to do it in shifts. He'd have guys in the morning, he'd have guys in the afternoon later, so they all know that if they get involved in this, they're going to be better for it. It's just a matter of getting everybody the proper amount of time and making sure we don't work Wash too hard where he can't do his job. But he's one of the great teachers, if not the best teacher, as far as infield play, that I've ever been around."

Ladendorf's diving stop

Ladendorf said Washington never tires, though. He's always willing to hit ground balls to you. He's always willing to subject you to his seemingly endless procession of difficult drills. He'll stand there with you for as long as it takes and talk about your technique.

"It just makes you work that much harder," Ladendorf said. "He's got a lot of passion. His name speaks for itself. You can see why he's had so much success."

Washington might be proudest of all at the transformation that Semien has undergone so quickly this year. He said Semien is the one who deserves most of the credt.

"Confidence plays a part in it, but he has such a tremendous work ethic," Washington said. "You give him something he can apply. He wants it. And his progress is really up to him. I just give him the work and as much knowledge as I possibly can. He applies it. He's not afraid to try anything."

Washington said he knew from the beginning of Spring Training that theirs would be a successful relationship.

"The one thing I did tell Marcus when we started working was that I'm not concerned about errors, which are part of the game," Washington said.

"But I do want him to understand that he won't be making 30-something errors."

Alvarez, Phegley progressing: Henderson Alvarez, the right-handed starter who is recovering from shoulder surgery last July and was returned from a rehab assignment on May 17 after experiencing soreness in the shoulder, played catch from 75 feet on Tuesday and rebounded well enough to stretch it out to 90 feet on Wednesday, Melvin said.

The skipper said the team's plan is to keep stretching it out as long as Alvarez continues to be able to handle it and eventually get him throwing bullpen sessions off a mound.

"We'll just treat it however he's feeling," Melvin said.

Catcher Josh Phegley, who's been on the DL since May 17 (retro to May 10) with a strained right knee, caught seven innings of Triple-A Nashville's Tuesday night game at Las Vegas, going 1-for-4 with an RBI double. Melvin said he would catch nine innings Wednesday night and could be activated Friday at home vs. Detroit.

"Knock wood, it was looking like we were close to surgery and now he feels great," Melvin said. "So whatever [the training staff is] doing with him, I'm glad it's working."

Doug Miller is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @DougMillerMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.