Cortisone injection saved Ryan Zimmerman’s season

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Ryan Zimmerman was struggling to play through a shoulder injury and hitting just .218 with three homers and a .590 OPS in 55 games through June 23.

The next day the Nationals third baseman got a cortisone injection in his shoulder and since then he’s been on fire.

Mark Zuckerman of CSNWashington.com broke down the numbers and they’re amazing: Since the cortisone injection Zimmerman is hitting .339 with 19 homers, 21 doubles, and a 1.021 OPS in 72 games.

One of the worst hitters in baseball before the cortisone injection and one of the best hitters in baseball since the cortisone injection, which is doubly remarkable considering at the time doctors told Zimmerman that they weren’t sure how much good the shot would do on his shoulder.

Looking back on it now, here’s what Zimmerman told Zuckerman:

I’m OK with the slow starts, but not being able to swing the bat and do the things health-wise, I was worried about that. Because I know my body pretty well. Everyone in this room plays hurt. Everyone in every locker room. Nobody’s healthy. And I’ve played hurt a lot just like everyone else. But it was a different kind of feeling. It made me nervous.

That was a trying time, I guess you could say. That was about as tough a six-week stretch as I’ve ever had in my career. To be able to look up there now and know I’ve been able to battle back from that–and more importantly, can actually help the team win now–I’m pretty proud of it.

Cortisone shots for everyone!

Starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani will pinch-hit and pinch-run for the Angels in 2018

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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.