UPDATE: David Hale of the Wilmington News Journal reports that Oswalt is confident he’ll be able to make his next start.
While it was initially announced that he left the game with a lower back strain, Oswalt told reporters that it’s mid-back spasms that aren’t related to his past back issue.
9:57 PM: According to Todd Zolecki of MLB.com, Roy Oswalt left tonight’s game against the Marlins after six innings with a lower back strain.
Oswalt suffered the injury while running to first base on a bunt in the bottom of the sixth inning. He went out to start the top of the seventh inning, but walked off the mound with a trainer before throwing a pitch. He allowed two runs over six innings while striking out six and walking one before leaving the game.
As Zolecki notes, Oswalt has dealt with a lower back issues in the past. The 33-year-old right-hander was shut down in September of 2009 due to lower back inflammation and required an injection in the area prior to the start of the 2010 season.
We’ve remained optimistic about the Phillies because the “Big Four” has managed to avoid the injury bug so far, but another lingering back issue for Oswalt could make things a little more interesting in the National League East.
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.