Tony Gwynn needed walker as he battled cancer, weight problems

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Hall of Fame outfielder Tony Gwynn, a 15-time All-Star and eight-time batting champion, has finished an eight-week program of chemotherapy and radiation treatment for cancer of the parotid gland, and says he hopes to return to his job as head baseball coach at San Diego State later this month, according to Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune.

The former San Diego Padres star was diagnosed with cancer in August and underwent surgery in October, completing his cancer treatment shortly before Christmas. In addition to the cancer, his health woes were complicated by back problems caused by being overweight.

Gwynn was a once svelte outfielder (listed at 5-11, 185 on baseball-reference.com!) who became increasingly portly as his legendary career progressed. After retiring, the five-time Gold Glove winner became noticeably bigger. His size contributed to disk problems in his back, which got so bad that it became difficult to walk.

“I was in bad shape,” Gwynn told the Union-Tribune. “Not only was I dealing with the cancer, I was having to use a walker to get around and I wasn’t doing a great job of that.”

He said that he isn’t sure about the status of his cancer, though he did point out that while he can’t say it’s cured, he feels good and doctors tell him he is ahead of schedule. He also said that he’s been “walking on my own for about a month now.”

Gwynn told the paper that his recovery was aided by the numerous cards and messages he received, saying that the support made it “hard to be down.” In addition to his coaching job, he said he also plans to return as a commentator on Padres telecasts this season.

As for his size, the career .338 hitter says he has lost a significant amount of weight and is getting around much better.

“I can’t tell you how many pounds because I haven’t gotten on a scale,” he said. “But I can guess the amount is considerable since I have sweats that fall off me now and my jackets seem like they are many sizes too big.

“Losing the weight has also helped my back and my walking.”

Gwynn, only 50, is a class act who has as much knowledge about baseball and hitting as anyone on the planet. Losing him as a coach and broadcaster would be a huge loss for the game. Get well Tony.

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Seattle Mariners to make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani

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Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a team-sponsored podcast the other day that the M’s will make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani. To that end, Dipoto said that the M’s would be willing to let the two-way star to pitch and to hit, which is something Ohtani is interested in doing in the United States. Not all clubs are likely to let him do this, with most likely seeing him as a starting pitcher only.

Ohtani, who is expected to be posted by his Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, possibly as early as today, can sign with anyone he wants. He is, however, subject to the international bonus pool caps, so the bids on him will be somewhat limited. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have the most money available: $3.535 million for the Rangers and $3.5 million for the Yankees. The Twins ($3.245 million), Pirates ($2.266 million), Marlins ($1.74 million) and Mariners ($1.57 million) are the only other teams with more than $1 million left. Twelve teams — including the Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals and Astros — are limited to a maximum of $300,000, having met or exceeded their caps for this signing period already.

Ohtani, however, is said to be less motivated by money than he is by finding the right situation. While a lot of guys say that, the fact that Ohtani is coming over to the U.S. now, when his financial prospects are limited, as opposed to waiting for two years when he is not subject to the bonus caps and could sign for nine figures, suggests that he is telling the truth. As such, a team like the Mariners that is willing to allow him to hit and pitch could make up for the couple of million less they have in bonus money to spend.

As for how that might work logistically, Dipoto said that the team would be willing to play DH Nelson Cruz a few days in the outfield to accommodate Ohtani, allowing him to DH on the days he’s not pitching. That might be . . . interesting to see, but given how badly the Mariners could use a good starting pitcher, they have an incentive to be creative.

Ohtani, 23, suffered some injuries in 2017, limiting him to just five starts and 65 games as a hitter. In 2016, however, he hit .289/.356/.547 with 22 homers in 342 at-bats and went 11-3 with a 3.24 ERA, and a K/BB ratio of 146/51 in 133.1 innings as a starter.

Five clubs have more money to spend on Ohtani than the Mariners do. None of those teams are on the west coast, which some Asian players have said in the past they preferred due to faster travel back home. The Mariners, owned for a long time by a Japanese company which still retains a minority interest in the club, and long the home for high-profile Japanese players such as Ichiro and Hisashi Iwakuma, likely have a better media and marketing reach in Japan than most other teams as well, which might be a factor in his decision making process. Is all that enough to sway Ohtani?

We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.