Following in Mark Mulder’s footsteps, Darin Erstad has made official what everyone assumed by telling a reporter in his native North Dakota that he’s “done.”
I couldn’t be much happier. I got to live a dream playing baseball for 14 years, now I’m getting to live the other side and it’s a blast. I had my time. I always said, “When I’m done, I’m done.” I’m good. I don’t have any complaints. It was 14 very enjoyable years. I gave my heart and soul to the game. I’m comfortable with my decision to move on. Do I miss it? Of course, I loved to play. But what I have at home is great, too.
Erstad tried to find a bench job during spring training, but even then expressed some reservations about being away from his family for “three pinch-hit at-bats” per week. He lives in Nebraska with his wife and three children under four years old.
Mulder had his last good season at age 27, as injuries ruined what was shaping up to be an excellent career, but Erstad played until age 35 despite not being a particularly valuable player after turning 30. He didn’t crack a .700 OPS in any of last five seasons and didn’t top an .800 OPS after 2000.
Excellent and often underrated defense in center field usually made up for Erstad’s inconsistent and ultimately mediocre offense, and the former No. 1 overall pick retires with three Gold Gloves, two All-Star appearances, a World Series title, 1,697 hits, and about $50 million in career earnings.
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.
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.