Red Sox probably aren’t serious about Adam LaRoche

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The Red Sox have been linked in recent weeks to free agent first baseman Adam LaRoche. But it sounds like he is merely being used as leverage while the Boston decision-makers attempt to work out a hip injury clause in their yet-to-be-finalized three-year, $39 million contract with Mike Napoli.

According to Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, the Red Sox are keeping LaRoche in their sights but “really don’t want to give up a draft pick to sign him.”

LaRoche rejected a one-year, $13.3 million qualifying offer from the Nationals in November, so Washington will get draft pick compensation if he heads to another team this winter. From the Red Sox, it would be a second-rounder in 2013. Napoli, for some reason, was not tendered a qualifying offer from the Rangers.

LaRoche batted .271/.343/.510 with 33 home runs and 100 RBI in 154 games this past season for the Nats. The 33-year-old also earned Gold Glove honors for his exceptional defense around the first base bag.

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.