Link-O-Rama: Slothburg, LeVon, and LaPorta

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* Washington Post blogger Dan Steinberg put together a nice roundup of stories about just how out of shape Stephen Strasburg was when he first arrived at San Diego State. He weighed 250 pounds, was throwing up 10 minutes into the team’s first workout, had teammates wondering if there was something medically wrong with him, and earned the nickname “Slothburg.” And now just two years later he’s the best pitching prospect in baseball with a deal worth over $15 million. Amazing.
* Speaking of draft picks, the Rays are accused of not attempting to sign first rounder LeVon Washington. Washington’s father explained that the Rays didn’t live up to a pre-draft agreement and never increased their offer from the recommended slot bonus, adding: “I’m convinced that they didn’t want to sign him.” Offering the slot bonus is hardly out of line, but the Rays may have decided that they weren’t all that high on anyone available with at No. 30 and would rather take their chances with a compensation pick one place lower next year.
* Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes that Indians manager Eric Wedge avoided giving Matt LaPorta consistent playing time earlier this season because he was “still trying to orchestrate a miracle by getting the Indians back in contention” and “was also trying to save his job.” While that’s no doubt true, the notion that playing one of the better hitting prospects in baseball wouldn’t have helped on both of those fronts is odd to say the least.
* Brandon Phillips exited this afternoon’s game with a sore left wrist, which is where he was plunked by a J.D. Martin fastball over the weekend.

Reid Brignac is trying to become a switch hitter

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL - FEBRUARY 26:  Reid Brignac #4 of the Atlanta Braves poses on photo day at Champion Stadium on February 26, 2016 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images
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Veteran utilityman Reid Brignac is in camp with the Astros on a minor league deal. The 31-year-old is close to being done as a major leaguer as he owns a career .219/.264/.309 triple-slash line across parts of nine seasons. In an effort to prolong his big league career, Brignac is now attempting to become a switch-hitter, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports.

I’m going to try it out this year. It was something that I just thought long and hard about and I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to try and see how it goes.’ I used to switch-hit when I was younger off and on, nothing consistent. I could always handle the bat right-handed. I play golf right-handed, so I do a lot of things that way that feel natural.

I just want to get to the point where I’m trying to stay in games, not get pinch-hit for, not starting games because a lefty is starting. … That could help me stay in the games longer. I’m trying to add a new element. I play multiple positions and now if I can switch hit and be consistent at it, then that can only help me.

As Brignac mentions, he’s also verstile. He’s a shortstop by trade, but has also logged plenty of innings at second base and third base, and has occasionally played corner outfield.

There aren’t any examples — at least that I can think of — where players began switch-hitting late in their careers and actually succeeding in the major leagues. As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But here’s hoping Brignac bucks the trend.

Video: Andrelton Simmons makes a heads-up play to catch Carlos Asuaje off first base

ANAHEIM, CA - AUGUST 03:  Andrelton Simmons #2 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim returns to the dugout after scoring in the second inning against the Oakland Athletics at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on August 3, 2016 in Anaheim, California.  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images
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Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons fell off the map a bit last year due to a combination of the Angels’ mediocrity, Simmons’ lack of offense, and a month-plus of missed action due to a torn ligament in his left thumb.

Simmons is still as good and as smart as ever on defense. That was on full display Monday when the Angels hosted the Padres for an afternoon spring exhibition.

With a runner on first base and nobody out in the top of the second inning, Carlos Asuaje grounded a 2-0 J.C. Ramirez fastball to right field. The runner, Hunter Renfroe, advanced to third base. Meanwhile, Asuaje wandered a little too far off the first base bag. Simmons cut off the throw to first base, spun around and fired to Luis Valbuena at first base. Valbuena swiped the tag on Asuaje for the first out of the inning.