Jonny Venters tossed a scoreless inning last night in his first rehab appearance last night with Triple-A Gwinnett. He was originally expected to make two appearances before returning from the disabled list, but the Braves have decided to activate him for today’s doubleheader against the Nationals. Matt Diaz was placed on the disabled list with a right thumb contusion in a corresponding roster move.
Venters has been sidelined since July 5 with a left elbow impingement. The 27-year-old southpaw has a 4.45 ERA and 43/17 K/BB ratio over 32 1/3 innings this season, including a 6.08 ERA since May 1. No pitcher has appeared in more games (207) since Venters made his major league debut in 2010.
Craig Kimbrel blew his second save of the season last night and has worked in each of the last three days, so Venters could find himself in the mix for a save if the Braves have a lead today.
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.