Bob Nightengale tweets:
Strasburg, who got a $15.1 million guaranteed contract won’t make his MLB debut before 2010, Boras says. Press conference likely on Thursday
Analytical take: this is probably smart, as he pitched a lot of college innings and could use the rest, his presence won’t mean the difference between the Nats having a winning or losing season, and there’s no need for the P.R. bump of having him appear in a game because the Nats got a huge P.R. bump simply by signing him. Heck, if he pitched once in September and got shelled, it could even be anti-P.R. Better to put his picture on the envelope of next year’s season ticket renewal letters as an unsullied and potentially-perfect product.
Cynical take: Now that the Nats know they can work with Scott Boras and live to tell the tale, there’s no WAY they want to win any more games than they have to and thus lose out on the Bryce Harper derby to Kansas City or San Diego or someone.
UPDATE: A second Nightengale tweet has Boras saying that Strasburg may not even pitch in the big leagues next year. Whatever. As of 11:58 last night, Boras doesn’t control too terribly much about Strasburg’s future, so while I agree with Boras that it may be in everyone’s best interests for Strasburg to be brought along slowly, I don’t give the Nats’ management enough credit to see beyond the increase in ticket sales that would result from him being in the Washington rotation in 2010. Maybe in June or July 2010, but if he’s not pitching in major league games next year, I’ll eat my hat.
The Angels’ bench is looking woefully thin this winter — so thin, in fact, that manager Mike Scioscia says he’s considering utilizing starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani as a pinch-hitter and pinch-runner on the days he’s not scheduled to pitch.
I’ve never had a pitcher pinch-run,” Scioscia told reporters Saturday. “There’s more bad than good that can come out of it. But Shohei is not just a pitcher. He’s a guy that has the ability to do some of the things coming off the bench, whether it’s pinch-hit or pinch-run, and we’re definitely going to tap into that if it’s necessary, because we feel we’re not putting him at risk. It’s something he’s able to do.
Granted, spring training allows for a certain amount of experimentation before managers and players decide what works best for them, so this may not be the strategy the Angels employ for the entire season. In addition to coming off the bench between starts, Ohtani is also expected to see 2-3 days at DH every week, forcing Albert Pujols to shift over to first base to accommodate the new two-way star.
Ohtani’s hitting prowess has already been well-documented — he has a lifetime .286/.358/.500 batting line from NPB and crushed a batting practice home run during his initial workouts with the team this week — but his skills on the basepaths have received less attention so far. MLB Pipeline describes the 23-year-old phenom as a “well-above average runner” whose speed has yet to manifest stolen bases: he’s nabbed just 13 bases in 17 chances over the last five years. That’s a number Scioscia hopes to see increased this season, though he doesn’t want his ace pitcher making any head-first slides on the basepaths to do so.
To be sure, it’s an unorthodox role for any young player to step into, but if anyone can pull it off, Ohtani can.