Angels manager Mike Scioscia is taking a lot of heat locally for continuing to play struggling 42-year-old Raul Ibanez, especially after the team called up first base prospect C.J. Cron to provide an alternative at designated hitter.
Ibanez is hitting .153 with three homers and a .514 OPS in 56 games. By comparison, Cron is hitting .275 with three homers and a .763 OPS in 33 games since being called up from Triple-A last month. And yet Ibanez has started three straight games over Cron, with Scioscia explaining to Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times:
There’s no doubt he’s making some strides in the batter’s box, and you’re seeing better swings. The bottom line is production. Nobody understands that better than Raul. He knows he needs to have better at-bats. Nobody is working harder than Raul, and we’re confident he’s going to contribute for us.
It’d be one thing to show patience in a star player going through a prolonged slump, but when a 42-year-old hits .153 in 56 games and wasn’t all that good to begin with in recent years … well, it would seem like an obvious opportunity to turn the page and give Cron an extended chance instead. Ibanez hasn’t topped an .800 OPS since 2009 and hasn’t topped a .310 on-base percentage since 2010. Scioscia is waiting around for a bat that’s nothing special anyway.
Tigers’ center fielder Anthony Gose wants to try his hand at pitching, according to comments made by manager Brad Ausmus on Sunday. Gose is poised to start the year in Triple-A Toledo after receiving a midseason demotion to Double-A last summer following an altercation with Triple-A manager Lloyd McClendon.
While the experiment won’t detract from Gose’s outfield work in Triple-A, the 26-year-old is expected to take on additional bullpen sessions throughout the year. According to MLB.com’s Jason Beck, the left-handed hitter last took the mound in high school, where his fastball was clocked as fast as 97 m.p.h. Gose ultimately rejected the idea of starting his professional career as a pitcher, despite receiving favorable assessments from scouts.
Ausmus said the idea first surfaced at the end of the 2016 season. It appears to be a fallback option for the outfielder, who has struggled at the plate over his five-year career in the majors. Via Chris McCosky of the Detroit News:
Doolittle in Oakland did it and he was in the big leagues a couple of years later,” Ausmus said. “It’s going to take some time. He’s going to have to be a sponge and catch up on experience fast. But we feel it’s worth investigating.
Nationals’ right-hander Stephen Strasburg will take the mound for the club on Opening Day, manager Dusty Baker said on Sunday. The news is hardly surprising given Max Scherzer’s questionable status this spring, though it had yet to be confirmed by the club.
Strasburg is approaching his eighth run with the club in 2017. He went 15-4 in 2016, finishing the year with a 3.60 ERA, 2.7 BB/9 and 11.2 SO/9 in 147 2/3 innings. This will mark his fourth Opening Day assignment with the Nationals.
Scherzer, the Nationals’ Opening Day starter in both 2015 and 2016, is scheduled to make his season debut sometime during the first week of the season. The right-hander is expected to take things more slowly this spring as he finishes rehabbing a stress fracture in his finger.
The Nationals will open their season against the Marlins on April 3.