In an attempt to lessen his chronic shoulder problems Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman is altering his throwing motion to avoid over-the-top throws. Zimmerman has done this occasionally in the past, on certain plays, but now he’s giving the three-quarters arm slot a full-time try.
Here’s what he told James Wagner of the Washington Post:
I’ve gone through this for awhile now, so you can’t get too relieved. It’s a constant work in progress. It’s tough. But for now, we found something that I think has a chance to work without hurting. So that’s a relief. Because I want to be out there and I want to help the team win. When I can’t do that, it’s frustrating.
Nationals manager Matt Williams, himself a third baseman, thinks it could work because Zimmerman’s new arm slot isn’t far off from Williams’ arm slot as a player.
Still, if Zimmerman is at the point where he’s having to manage pain on a daily basis, local media is reporting on how many pain-free throws he was able to make in pregame warmups, and literally every throw with his normal arm slot has a chance to turn into a major setback … well, it’s not a good situation. And, seemingly, not a long-term solution.
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.