Yadier Molina won’t be back with the Cardinals before September

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Yadier Molina is four weeks into what was expected to be an 8-12 week recovery from a torn thumb ligament and Cardinals manager Mike Matheny told Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post Dispatch that “what we’re hearing is good” on the catcher’s status.

Matheny described it as “just healing time” right now and reiterated that Molina won’t return before September. He also said the team has had to keep Molina away from the ballpark at times because “we’re trying to keep him from going crazy … he wants to be out there so bad.”

After initially turning to Tony Cruz and George Kottaras the Cardinals have gone with A.J. Pierzynski as their primary Molina fill in. Pierzynski collected three hits in his Cardinals debut, but the 37-year-old Red Sox castoff has a .616 OPS in five games overall to match his poor production in Boston.

Starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani will pinch-hit and pinch-run for the Angels in 2018

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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.