Freddy Sanchez hasn’t played a game in the majors since June 10 of last year following shoulder and back surgeries, but he’s still hoping to help the Giants as a pinch-hitter down the stretch.
According to Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com, Sanchez is currently working out at the Giants’ complex in Scottsdale and could begin playing in instructional league games as soon as Monday.
Sanchez began this season on the disabled list following surgery last August to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder. The 34-year-old second baseman suffered numerous setbacks before undergoing surgery on his back on July 5 to address a nerve issue which was affecting his leg strength. Giants trainer Dave Groeschner still considers a return “highly unlikely,” but Sanchez is willing to help in any way he can.
“There’s obviously no room right now and everybody is doing great, so I realize it’s a tough situation,” Sanchez told me by phone on Friday. “Ryan Theriot, Joaquin Arias, Marco Scutaro, all those guys have been there and are playing great. Sometimes you can’t mess with that.
“But my goal was to always come back this year. If I can be a bat off the bench, or help in any way, I want to be there.”
Sanchez was a key part of the Giants’ World Series run in 2010, but he has made $18 million over the past three seasons while appearing in just 171 games.
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.