Clay Buchholz gave the Red Sox a bit of a scare last week when he suffered a minor strain of his right hamstring during a fielding drill, but it already appears to be a non-issue.
Peter Abraham of the Boston Globe reports that Buchholz “felt good” after he threw 37 pitches this morning in a two-inning simulated game. If all goes according to plan, he’ll make his Grapefruit League debut at some point next week.
“Felt really good,” Buchholz said. “The one thing that we need to sit and work on is [pitching] out of the stretch. Didn’t really get to go in depth with it. There’s definitely some kinks in the delivery. Other than that, felt strong.”
Buchholz, 28, had a 4.56 ERA and 129/64 K/BB ratio over a career-high 189 1/3 innings last season. He was actually pretty solid after the start of May, posting a 3.62 ERA over his final 23 starts.
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.