CC Sabathia allowed four runs on eight hits and four walks over five innings in today’s season-opening 8-2 loss to the Red Sox. In doing so, the big southpaw topped out at just 91.7 mph on his fastball (according to Brooks Baseball) and relied heavily on his changeup to get outs. However, he told Mark Feinsend of the New York Daily News that he’s not concerned about the radar gun right now.
“I feel good. The arm strength will be building up as the season goes on but health wise I feel fine. I’ll keep working in the bullpen and just try to get better.
“I’m sure that the velocity will keep coming back and the arm strength will keep building up the more I throw. Health-wise, I feel fine, elbow, shoulder and everything. It’s just time I guess to build the arm strength back up.
“It’s always what it is at the beginning of the year, 88 to 92. That’s what I’ll work with right now and hopefully it gets a little better.”
Sabathia, 32, averaged 92.3 mph on his heater last season and 93.8 mph in 2011. To be fair, he is coming off elbow surgery and is typically a slow starter, so it’s probably way too soon to panic. But his velocity figures to be a prominent topic of conversation during his upcoming starts.
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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.