Indians acquire Bixler from Pirates

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Clearing a 40-man roster spot for Brendan Donnelly, the Pirates on Monday traded infielder Brian Bixler to the Indians for fellow infielder Jesus Brito.
The Pirates looked at Bixler as the most expendable player on their roster, and they had made it clear he wasn’t in their 2010 plans after they signed Bobby Crosby, giving them four veteran middle infielders on major league deals.
Bixler, 27, hit .275/.343/.439 for Triple-A Indianapolis last season. He actually had a rather remarkable major league line, as he managed to bat .227 despite striking out 26 times in 44 at-bats. He was 10-for-18 with five doubles when he put the ball in play.
Overall, Bixler has hit .178/.238/.237 in 152 at-bats as a major leaguer. He’s a below average defensive shortstop, but a pretty good second baseman. He needs to really step it up if he’s going to have a career as a utilityman. The Indians could keep him as their second baseman against left-handers if they decide Jason Donald would benefit from more Triple-A time.
Brito, primarily a third baseman, hit .353/.431/.567 in 224 at-bats between the Arizona and New York-Penn Leagues last season, but as a 21-year-old, he was quite a bit older than most of the competition he was facing. The Indians didn’t view him as one of their better infield prospects.

Shohei Ohtani is having a brutal spring training

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Spring training is tough for players under the best of circumstances. Even in an age when players work out all year, getting back into the swing of baseball-at-full-speed is tough. Many players spend the bulk of February and March knocking off the rust and getting their timing back. Because of this — and because the games have no real stakes — it is not wise to take spring training statistics super seriously. Especially if the player in question is assured of a spot on the roster and is trying to avoid injury before the regular season arrives.

Spring training for Shohei Ohtani is doubly difficult. Not only does he have to knock the rust off from the offseason, but he (a) has to get used to a new country and language; (b) has to get to know all new teammates, coaches and, really, an entirely new baseball culture; and (c) do all of that while dealing with a media crush that hasn’t been seen in baseball since Ichiro first arrived 17 years ago. In short, Ohtani is under massive pressure and has to make massive adjustments in a short time.

With that said, neither the Angels nor Ohtani can be all that pleased with how his spring training has gone. In two actual major league exhibition games he’s allowed eight runs in two and two-thirds innings. Seven of those came on Friday when he was shelled by the Rockies in an inning and a third. If you include B-games against minor leaguers, he has allowed 17 runs on 18 hits, four of which were homers, in four games. As a hitter he’s 2-for-20.

As Jeff Fletcher of the OC Register notes, Ohtani’s peripherals are not bad, as he has struck out a lot of guys and walked very few and the average on balls in play against him has been brutal, which is not super sustainable. Bad luck and some fat pitches at a time of the year when luck doesn’t really matter and the pitches, because of the rust, are likely to be fatter than normal.

As Fletcher also notes, Nolan Arenado, who faced Ohtani on Friday, said that his stuff looked good and that he’s going to be a good big league pitcher. Ohtani and Angels officials are all striking the right notes about bad luck and adjustments, saying that they’re not worried.

I imagine they’d be worrying even less if things had gone well this spring. Unless of course this is just a professional wrestling-style work aimed at getting more of us to watch his regular season debut, in which he’ll reveal that he was sandbaggin’ all along.