Fired as Angels hitting coach, Mickey Hatcher joins Dodgers as special assistant

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Mickey Hatcher, the longtime Angels hitting coach who was fired six weeks ago amid the team’s disappointing start, has joined the Dodgers as a special assistant to the general manager, according to Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com.

At the time of Hatcher’s firing the Angels were 16-21 and averaging 3.6 runs per game. Since replacing Hatcher with Triple-A hitting coach Jim Eppard the Angels are 24-12 and have averaged 4.6 runs per game.

How much of that is on Hatcher and how much it stems from Albert Pujols getting his act together and Mike Trout coming up from the minors as an immediate MVP candidate is open for debate, of course, but the move certainly had the intended impact.

Hatcher spent the first two seasons and last four seasons of his dozen-year career with the Dodgers and joined the Angels as hitting coach in 2000.

Starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani will pinch-hit and pinch-run for the Angels in 2018

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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.