Corey Hart, who was already dealing with plantar fasciitis in his left foot, hasn’t played since injuring the foot running the bases Sunday and Adam McCalvy of MLB.com reports that the Brewers first baseman/outfielder “will be fitted with a custom foot support.”
The hope is that will allow Hart to rejoin the lineup relatively soon, although he admitted that “it’s not going to go away” and could be an issue for the remainder of the season:
I already have a tear in there. I think right now we want to get all the initial swelling out so I can get back on the field, and if I fully tear it, I fully tear it. I want to get out there and do what I can. We’re so close to the end right now, and where we are [in the standings], I want to try to play. If I make it worse, I make it worse, and we have the offseason to recover.
The best-case scenario is probably a Friday return, but even then Hart will be one bad step away from missing the rest of the season. He’s hitting .278 with 27 homers and an .855 OPS in 137 games to basically duplicate his numbers from 2010 and 2011, but has attempted just five steals after trying no fewer than 13 steals in any season from 2006-2011.
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.