The Diamondbacks lost another game to the Mets on Wednesday afternoon and are now 4-14 on the season with by far the worst run differential (-48) in the major leagues. Diamondbacks manger Kirk Gibson and general manager Kevin Towers were both given contract extensions this spring, but the club had fairly high expectations heading into the 2014 regular season so it’s fair to wonder whether one of those two (or both) might be on the hot seat.
Wonder no more, friends. At least for a little while.
CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman spoke to D’Backs president Derrick Hall on Wednesday and asked him where Gibson and Towers stand after such a dreadful start. “It’s far too early to say they’re in jeopardy,” Hall said. “I wouldn’t say anybody’s in trouble at this point. … Right now you can’t place blame on any one person.”
We’ll see if that tune changes if the club’s on-field performance does not improve. The Diamondbacks have a 6.14 staff ERA — highest in the majors — and top pitching prospect Archie Bradley remains in the minors.
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.