Scott Rolen is having a tough time

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When Scott Rolen was placed on the disabled list in mid-May after experiencing renewed discomfort in his troublesome left shoulder, many wondered whether that might be it for the veteran third baseman.

Whether he might hang up his cleats for good.

He didn’t, returning to Cincinnati’s active roster about two weeks ago. But things still aren’t going well.

As noted by John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer, Rolen has no hits and eight strikeouts in his last 16 at-bats. He’s batting just .184/.243/.312 overall, and there seems to be no end in sight for his offensive struggles.

But Reds skipper Dusty Baker said Saturday that he’s going to stick with Rolen, who turned 37 in April:

“Rarely is less more, especially when you’re trying to get your stroke,” said the manager. “You can’t just look at now. You’ve got to look at his career. I’m into the big picture. Sometimes I’m into the small picture. But sooner or later, water seeks its own level. They get back to where they’re supposed to be – or at least pretty close.”

The problem is Rolen, a .281/.364/.491 career hitter, probably isn’t capable of getting back to where he’s “supposed to be — or at least pretty close.” Not at age 37, and not with lingering soreness in an area of his body that’s been fragile for several years.

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.