Here’s a blast from the past. According to Bill Ladson of MLB.com, the Nationals have signed utilityman Delwyn Young to a minor league contract. The deal does not include a spring training invite, which speaks to how far the former Dodgers’ farmhand has fallen in recent years.
Young, 30, failed to make the White Sox out of spring training last year and ended up batting .192 in 35 games with the Camden Riversharks of the independent Atlantic League. He hasn’t appeared in the majors since 2010 as a member of the Pirates and owns a .258/.317/.393 career batting line. The Nats figure to use him as minor league depth.
At this point, Young will probably be best remembered as the answer to a trivia question, as the switch-hitter slugged a two-run homer in Stephen Strasburg’s major league debut on June 8, 2010. They were the only runs allowed by Strasburg on that special night. If you have to be a minor footnote in baseball history, that’s a pretty good one.
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.