Bryan Bullington gets first career win eight years after being No. 1 overall pick

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Eight years and four teams after being the No. 1 overall pick in the 2002 draft, Bryan Bullington finally picked up his first major-league victory yesterday and did it in a big way, tossing eight shutout, two-hit innings against the Yankees in a 1-0 win.
Bullington never really seemed capable of living up to the promise of a No. 1 pick after the Pirates selected him over the likes of top-10 picks B.J. Upton, Prince Fielder, and Zack Greinke, and then Tommy John elbow surgery derailed his career in 2006.
Since then he’s logged over 400 innings at Triple-A and spent brief stints in the majors with the Pirates, Indians, Blue Jays, and now Royals in between trips to the waiver wire. Bullington described his post-surgery journey as “kind of plodding along” and noted he’s “been down the last couple of years.”
Now he’s got a victory under his belt and, at age 29, has a chance to stick around for a while with the Royals. “I’m to the point where I don’t want to kick it around in Triple-A for another four or five years,” Bullington said after beating the Yankees. “I know if I’m going to do this, I want to do it now and I want to get in a situation where I can pitch and hopefully fit in.”
Or as manager Ned Yost put it: “Sometimes you find a late bloomer.”

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.