Tired of standing still, Angels take step backwards

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Having struck out all winter, the Angels finally did something to shake up their lineup Friday, only the move was to get rid of one of their best hitters. 

Opinions on Mike Napoli’s defense are certainly mixed, but there aren’t many better offensive catchers.   Since he entered the league in 2006, Napoli has hit .251/.346/.455 with 92 homers in 1,549 at-bats.   Over the last three years, he’s come in at .258/.341/.502.  Only two catchers with at least 1,000 plate appearances since 2008 stack up better when it comes to OPS+:

1. Joe Mauer – 147
2. Brian McCann – 126
3. Napoli – 123
4. Victor Martinez – 117
5. Jorge Posada – 117

And it’s not like the Angels have a whole bunch of expendable offense. They ranked ninth in the AL in runs scored last season. They had five above average hitters last season, counting the 51 games they got from Kendry Morales. They’ll likely have a full season from Morales this year, but now Napoli and Hideki Matsui are gone and the other two productive players, Torii Hunter and Bobby Abreu, are turning 35 and 37, respectively.

Napoli’s departure means one of baseball’s worst hitters — arguably the worst — will move into the starting lineup on a regular basis. It might be merely a temporary promotion for Jeff Mathis, as the team has a decent alternative in Bobby Wilson and a top prospect on the way in Hank Conger, but Mike Scioscia loves his defense and won’t need much convincing to give him 400 at-bats for the first time.

And that’s just not something the Angels can afford at the moment. Morales and Hunter should be good, but probably not great. Abreu is drifting back towards average, and Juan Rivera and Alberto Callaspo aren’t anything more than that. The Angels will go get themselves a DH before Opening Day, and they might yet pull off an upgrade at third base, though there’s no help in free agency there.

Scioscia definitely seems to have his work cut out for him now. Yet this is what he wanted: he may have had nothing to do with the trade itself, but in choosing to put so much faith in Mathis, he steered Napoli out of town just the same.

The Tigers are trying to convert Anthony Gose into a pitcher

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Tigers’ center fielder Anthony Gose wants to try his hand at pitching, according to comments made by manager Brad Ausmus on Sunday. Gose is poised to start the year in Triple-A Toledo after receiving a midseason demotion to Double-A last summer following an altercation with Triple-A manager Lloyd McClendon.

While the experiment won’t detract from Gose’s outfield work in Triple-A, the 26-year-old is expected to take on additional bullpen sessions throughout the year. According to MLB.com’s Jason Beck, the left-handed hitter last took the mound in high school, where his fastball was clocked as fast as 97 m.p.h. Gose ultimately rejected the idea of starting his professional career as a pitcher, despite receiving favorable assessments from scouts.

Ausmus said the idea first surfaced at the end of the 2016 season. It appears to be a fallback option for the outfielder, who has struggled at the plate over his five-year career in the majors. Via Chris McCosky of the Detroit News:

Doolittle in Oakland did it and he was in the big leagues a couple of years later,” Ausmus said. “It’s going to take some time. He’s going to have to be a sponge and catch up on experience fast. But we feel it’s worth investigating.

Stephen Strasburg is the Nationals’ Opening Day starter

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Nationals’ right-hander Stephen Strasburg will take the mound for the club on Opening Day, manager Dusty Baker said on Sunday. The news is hardly surprising given Max Scherzer’s questionable status this spring, though it had yet to be confirmed by the club.

Strasburg is approaching his eighth run with the club in 2017. He went 15-4 in 2016, finishing the year with a 3.60 ERA, 2.7 BB/9 and 11.2 SO/9 in 147 2/3 innings. This will mark his fourth Opening Day assignment with the Nationals.

Scherzer, the Nationals’ Opening Day starter in both 2015 and 2016, is scheduled to make his season debut sometime during the first week of the season. The right-hander is expected to take things more slowly this spring as he finishes rehabbing a stress fracture in his finger.

The Nationals will open their season against the Marlins on April 3.