The Red Sox is outfield about to get very crowded

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Jacoby Ellsbury homered in his rehab game Monday, Carl Crawford is moving his rehab up to Double-A Portland with an eye towards returning right after the All-Star break and Scott Podsednik is rehabbing at Triple-A just awaiting his activation. Ryan Sweeney (toe) will probably be back before the end of the month, too.

In the meantime, the Red Sox have the following guys playing outfield right now:

Cody Ross – .287/.358/.575 in 181 AB
Daniel Nava – .294/.411/.462 in 143 AB
Ryan Kalish – .250/.286/.300 in 40 AB

Obviously, something is going to have to give. Kalish’s demotion is inevitable, but even so, that’d only free up one spot for four players. The Red Sox are going to have a difficult time squeezing either Podsednik or Sweeney back on the roster, at least once Ellsbury and Crawford are ready to go. Here’s what those two have done this year:

Scott Podsednik – .387/.409/.484 in 62 AB
Ryan Sweeney – .292/.330/.404 in 171 AB

Nava has options and can be sent down, but the Red Sox would be crazy to do that while he’s hitting like this. Not only has he been outstanding offensively — he’s scored 26 runs and driven in 26 runs in just 143 at-bats — but he’s also vastly improved defensively from a couple of years ago.

The truth is that the Red Sox really won’t have any business playing Crawford until either Ross or Nava hits a rough patch. It will be interesting to see if they do it anyway. It’s not that Crawford is incapable of bouncing back; it’s just that his replacements are performing so well.

As for Podsednik and Sweeney, they may turn into waiver bait. The Red Sox could keep one of those two in addition to Ellsbury, Crawford, Ross and Nava, but that would mean jettisoning the newly acquired Brent Lillibridge, someone who offers much more versatility with his ability to play the infield.

My guess: Podsednik replaces Kalish sometime this week, then gets designated for assignment when Ellsbury and Crawford return after the break (the Red Sox are at 13 pitchers right now, which should change next week).  When Sweeney returns in late July, Lillibridge will likely be dumped, provided he’s still struggling offensively. If Lillibridge starts hitting, the Red Sox could try to slide Sweeney through waivers and send him to Triple-A.

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.