Ryne Duren: 1929-2011

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Ryne Duren, a three-time All-Star reliever in the 1950s and 1960s known for his blazing fastball, coke-bottle glasses, and effective wildness, has passed away at age 81.

Duren didn’t get his first extended opportunity in the majors until he was 28, but he pitched nine seasons for seven different teams and was a dominant force in the Yankees’ bullpen in 1958 and 1959, combining to post a 1.95 ERA and 183 strikeouts in 152 innings while leading the league in saves.

Duren also walked 86 batters in 152 innings during that span, and control problems plagued the 6-foot-2 right-hander for his entire career. Not always knowing where the ball was going combined with thick glasses and a high-90s fastball made Duren awfully tough to hit, and he famously played up the wildness even further by often intentionally firing his first warmup pitch over the catcher’s head.

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.