SARASOTA — One of the first things I saw upon entering the Orioles’ clubhouse this morning was Delmon Young wearing compression shorts and no shirt on. And you guys say you wish you had my job.
I will say, though, Young looked better in that ensemble than I figured he might. It made me wonder if he wasn’t in better shape this year than he’s been in the past few years. My guess was confirmed by MASN’s Roch Kubatko, who asked Buck Showalter about it. here’s Buck:
“Delmon can hit,” Showalter said. “He’s probably in as good a shape as he’s been in in a long time.”
Also, Kubatko felt it necessary to note that, when he spoke with Young, Young was “bathed in a heavy sweat.” There’s the second mental image for you today.
Seriously, though. Good for Young. The only times he’s been a solid major leaguer have come when he’s been in good shape. And given that Nelson Cruz’s presence may mean it’s hard for Young to make the team, he’s going to need every advantage he can get to be in the bigs this year.
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.