Does Theo Epstein want to keep Papelbon around?

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I’ve been beating the “The Red Sox will non-tender Jonathan Papelbon” drum for a while now. But when you read that kind of stuff, keep one thing in mind: I don’t, surprisingly enough, run the Boston Red Sox.  Theo Epstein does, however, and based on some things he said yesterday, Papelbon may very well be back in Boston next year:

“Having two really good
pitchers is better than one. Sometimes you don’t want to
overcomplicate things.”

Or it could simply be a platitude designed to get him and the team through the last week and a half of the season without having a big controversy erupt.

It’s also worth noting, I think, that having to pay a closer eight figures a year — which is what Papelbon will get if offered arbitration by the Sox — complicates things too. Like, really complicates things if you’re trying to add other pieces to a team that could use some new pieces.

Theo knows that too.

Starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani will pinch-hit and pinch-run for the Angels in 2018

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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.