Batting fifth and playing third base, Hanley Ramirez tripled in his first at-bat with the Dodgers and later added an RBI single, but it wasn’t enough as the club lost to the Cardinals 3-2 in 12 innings.
Ramirez is expected to move back to shortstop for the Dodgers, but since he hadn’t played there at all this season, manager Don Mattingly made the call to leave him at third base tonight.
Ramirez had an odd play defensively anyway, as Yadier Molina’s grounder went off his glove with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. Fortunately, the ball deflected right to shortstop Luis Cruz, who was able to make the throw to first in time to retire Molina and send a 2-2 game to extra innings.
Ramirez walked to lead off the 12th in his final plate appearance. However, he never made it past first, as James Loney and Cruz struck out behind him and A.J. Ellis flied out to end the inning.
The Cardinals won when ex-Dodger Rafael Furcal singled in pinch-runner Joe Kelly in the bottom of the 12th. The injured Lance Berkman started that rally with a walk and was immediately removed. With two outs, Matt Carpenter hit a single to center that should have put runners on the corners, except Kelly slipped on second base as he made the turn and had to stay put. He scored anyway on Furcal’s hit, which was mishandled by Tony Gwynn Jr. in left.
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.