Brett Lawrie is back on the disabled list once again, this time due to an oblique strain, but it’s not all bad news on the injury front for the Blue Jays.
According to Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca, Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos said this afternoon that slugger Edwin Encarnacion “may” begin a minor league rehab assignment this weekend. The 31-year-old has been sidelined since July 5 with a right quad strain and suffered a minor setback late last month, but Anthoupoulos expects him to rejoin the Blue Jays by the end of next week if all goes well. It’s even possible he could return a bit sooner. Good news.
Even though Encarnacion has missed a month, he still ranks third in the American League with 26 homers and ninth with 70 RBI. He’s batting .277/.368/.491 overall this 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.