UPDATE: Roch Kubatko of MASNSports.com reports that Orioles manager Buck Showalter and longtime scout Fred Ferreira watched Ramirez take batting practice shortly after the Winter Meetings. It isn’t clear whether they have legitimate interest or this was just a matter of due diligence.
4:00 PM: Manny Ramirez is scheduled to hold a workout for MLB teams later this month, but a couple teams are already getting a headstart on their evaluation process.
Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes reports (link in Spanish) that the Orioles and Blue Jays have sent scouts to watch Ramirez hit in an indoor hitting cage in Miami.
Ramirez was officially reinstated from the voluntary retirement list last month. While he was initially expected to serve a 100-game suspension for a second positive test related to performance-enhancing drugs, MLB has since ruled that because he sat out nearly the entire 2011 season, he’ll instead serve a 50-game penalty. However, the clock on his suspension won’t begin until he signs with a team. Not surprisingly, interest is lacking.
Ramirez turns 40 in May and considering the wealth of alternatives among aging free agent DH-types, a minor league deal is probably the best-case scenario.
The wave of defensive shifts we’ve seen over the past few years has led to a lot of armchair hitting coaches demanding that players bunt to beat it. This is easier said than done, however.
The shift happens because certain hitters tend to pull the ball. Certain hitters tend to pull the ball because pulling the ball is what happens when one gets a strong, quick swing on a pitch one identifies early and which one endeavors to send as far away from home plate as possible. Which is to say that pulling is a skill that is good to have and which is strongly selected for among hitters.
In light of that, “why not just bunt to beat the shift” takes are kind of lazy. Bunting is hard! And it is not a thing guys who get shifted a lot are good at. Most of the time asking a player to do a thing he is not well-equipped to do is a bad idea. Indeed, a hitter voluntarily going away from his strength is something the defense would much prefer.
Most of the time anyway.
Last night Matt Carpenter made those armchair hitting coaches happy by laying down a bunt to beat the shift. And he laid it down so well that he ended up with a standup double:
One batter later Carpenter scored on a Starlin Castro error.
The shift giveth and the shift taketh away.