From Nick Cafardo’s Sunday notes column in the Boston Globe:
Mark Prior, RHP, free agent – He will likely attempt one more comeback. He spent some of last season with the Yankees, his rebuilt arm holding up well and getting his velocity into the low 90s. But Prior, who was the Stephen Strasburg of his day, has a new problem. After many weeks of trying to figure out what was wrong with the lower half of his body, he had surgery for a sports hernia, but the problem wasn’t completely corrected. He is working out near his home in San Diego, trying to figure it out. He will likely work out for teams as early as March.
Prior, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2001 MLB Amateur Draft, registered a promising 2.25 ERA, 0.75 WHIP and 15/4 K/BB ratio across 12 minor league innings last year. He hasn’t appeared in a major league game since the 2006 season, but he could score a spring training invitation if he’s healthy and throwing well before spring training concludes.
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.