Ron Washington picks Fernando Rodney as All-Star closer

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Fernando Rodney simply making the All-Star team at age 35 and after five consecutive seasons with an ERA higher than 4.00 is amazing enough, but apparently he’ll also be asked to close out the game if the American League has a ninth-inning lead.

Rodney told Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times that AL manager Ron Washington has already said he’s in line for the save opportunity, getting the nod over fellow closers Joe Nathan, Ryan Cook, Jim Johnson, and Chris Perez. That’s somewhat surprising considering Nathan is Washington’s closer for the Rangers and is having an incredible season himself with a 1.73 ERA, 18 saves, and a 45/4 K/BB ratio in 36 innings.

Of course, Rodney has a 0.93 ERA, 25 saves, and a 38/5 K/BB ratio in 39 innings, so it’s tough to go wrong either way. And maybe Washington just really wants to see Rodney do his post-save “shooting an arrow” celebration on a national stage.

Mariano Rivera closed out the American League’s last All-Star victory in 2009.

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.