With Cliff Pennington continue to hover around the Mendoza Line, the A’s are hunting for a shortstop, FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal reports.
The A’s are winners of nine of their last 10 games and are now 46-43 for the season, putting themselves right in the mix for a wild card spot.
Rosenthal lists Toronto’s Yunel Escobar and Arizona’s Stephen Drew as possibilities for the A’s. The Jays might be willing to move Escobar with Adeiny Hechavarria putting up decent numbers at Triple-A Las Vegas, particularly if it would get them some immediate pitching help. Escobar, though, has been quite a disappointment himself this season, hitting .251/.299/.339 in 342 at-bats.
The A’s would probably be better off upgrading at third rather than at short. As terrible as Pennington has been with the bat this year — he’s hitting .203/.266/.290 — he still offers fine defense, and he’s been a perfectly respectable hitter in the past (he finished with identical .687 OPSs in 2010 & ’11). He’s a better bet than Brandon Inge to serve as an average regular over the rest of the season.
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.