David Ross could have been retired twice in his second-inning at-bat against Kyle Lohse on Friday. Fortunately for him, he got a couple of breaks before turning a changeup into a two-run homer, giving the Braves an early 2-0 lead over the Cardinals.
Lohse’s 1-1 pitch to Ross was a fastball popped up down the first-base line. Allen Craig made his way towards the stands, only to pull up a little short and alligator arm the ball in the end. Had he been more aggressive, he may well have caught it.
That made it 1-2. Lohse then threw a changeup than Ross swung through, but the umpire had called time, apparently at Ross’s request. Ross, not knowing if it would be granted, stayed in the box and swung at the pitch. He got the good news afterwards.
Lohse then went right back to the changeup for some reason. It proved to be a huge mistake, as Ross deposited it over the wall in left-center.
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.