That I decided to note 29-year-old Jim Henderson’s major league arrival with a blog entry two weeks ago was largely due to the fact that he was an Expos draft pick; if he had instead been selected by the Reds or Giants 10 years ago, I probably would have let it pass without comment.
Henderson, though, is turning out to be something quite a bit more than a novelty act for the Brewers. On Wednesday, he picked up his second save in 24 hours, throwing a hitless ninth inning to protect a 3-2 lead against the Reds.
In all, Henderson has pitched seven innings in his two weeks with the Brewers and he’s currently sporting a 1.29 ERA and a 10/1 K/BB ratio.
Henderson isn’t some wily veteran getting by on guile or a wacky delivery, either; he sports a legitimate mid-90s fastball, which is why he kept getting looks in the minors despite underwhelming numbers. If he had better command or a better slider, he would have reached the majors years ago.
So far, Henderson is showing improved command. I’m still not very impressed with his slider, but it looks a whole lot better when he gets ahead with his fastball. The Brewers probably aren’t really looking at him as any sort of fixture in the closer’s role, but with the way he’s throwing, there’s reason to think he could be a useful piece in the pen beyond this 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.