The Giants were given quite a scare last night when right-hander Tim Lincecum was hit in the inside of his left knee by a line drive off the bat of Athletics first baseman Daric Barton in the fourth inning and had to be helped off the field. However, it appears that things could have been much worse.
Andrew Baggarly of CSNBayArea.com reports that Lincecum was left with a contusion on his knee, but X-rays ruled out a fracture or any major structural damage. We’ll know a lot more about his status after he arrives to the ballpark today, but Giants manager Bruce Bochy expressed optimism about his ability to make his season debut next Thursday against the Diamondbacks. If he’s unable to go, Yusmeiro Petit would fill in.
Lincecum, who signed a two-year, $35 million extension with the Giants in October, is coming off a 4.37 ERA and 193/76 K/BB ratio over 197 2/3 innings last season.
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.