It’s not often a guy can give up six runs in three and a third innings and say that he improved over his last start, but Tim Lincecum can. Five days after giving up eight runs in three and a third innings to the Nationals, Lincecum went out today against the Pirates and gave up six runs in three and a third.
Not that this “improvement” is cause for celebration, for it simply means that Lincecum’s nightmare season shows no sign of stopping.
The Giants went on to lose, and Lincecum is now 3-10, making him the Giants’ first 10-game loser at the break since Barry Zito in 2007. His ERA is now up to 6.42 and his WHIP up to 1.58.
And now that he’s matched Zito in one way, it’s time to ask a question about him that has often been asked of Zito over the years: how much longer can the Giants just keep running him out there?
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.