10:30 p.m. EST update: A source told Venezuelan reporter Marcos Grunfeld that Francisco Rodriguez has accepted the arbitration offer. U.S. sources Danny Knobler and Jon Heyman haven’t comfirmed, but they do say it’s likely.
6:15 p.m. EST update: A Boras rep told the Journal Sentinel’s Tom Haudricourt that K-Rod has yet to decide on arbitration. The deadline is midnight eastern tonight.
MLB Network’s Peter Gammons said differently yesterday, but FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal indicates that Francisco Rodriguez is likely to accept arbitration from the Brewers prior to the midnight deadline tonight.
Rodriguez had drawn interest from the Mets and Padres, but both of those teams have filled their closer’s roles in the last 24 hours. The Mets signed Frank Francisco for two years and $12 million last night, while the Padres acquired Huston Street from the Rockies earlier today.
Rodriguez doesn’t want to serve as a setup man for John Axford again, but with the closer market dwindling, he could stand to make far more money in arbitration than elsewhere. Rosenthal speculates that he’d earn $13 million next year that way. It’s possible a trade could follow; when Rafael Soriano surprised the Braves by accepting arbitration two years ago, a deal with the Rays was quickly worked out afterwards. As much as K-Rod wants to close, he probably wouldn’t stand in the way.
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.