We heard a report earlier this week linking the Orioles to both Josh Hamilton and Cody Ross as potential options for left field next year, but the club is currently focused on keeping one of their surprising late-season contributors.
Dan Connolly of the Baltimore Sun reports that the Orioles continue to pursue free agent outfielder Nate McLouth. The two sides have maintained dialogue since the 31-year-old hit the open market last week and two industry sources told Connolly yesterday that the Orioles are “still optimistic” about re-signing him.
McLouth’s future as a big leaguer was in doubt after he was released by the Pirates in late May, but he latched on with the Orioles just a few days later and was assigned to Triple-A Norfolk. He didn’t end up joining the big club until August, but he played a major role down the stretch, hitting .268/.342/.435 with seven home runs, 18 RBI, 12 stolen bases and a .777 OPS in 236 plate appearances. His hot-hitting continued during the postseason, as he batted .308 (8-for-26) with two home runs, five RBI and three stolen bases in five games.
There’s danger in putting too much stock in the small sample size of success, as McLouth could revert to the same player who batted .203/.312/.313 from 2010 to when he was released by the Pirates this year, but he has certainly played his way into another guaranteed major league contract.
Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic reports that the Pirates have decided to convert outfielder JB Shuck into a two-way player. Recent comments relayed from the club’s director of player development, Larry Broadway, indicated that the outfielder would be coached in developing his pitching skills while working at Triple-A Indianapolis.
Per Broadway, the change would be enacted to help the veteran outfielder develop some much-needed versatility in the majors, where he’s only ever been limited to outfield and DH responsibilities. Well, except for the two games in which he pitched an inning of relief: once, against the Nationals in a blowout 11-4 loss in 2016, then in a similarly painful loss to the Diamondbacks this past April. During the latter outing, he finished the game with a 13-pitch ninth inning after allowing just one hit and one walk.
Add to that one minor-league outing in 2012, and the 31-year-old Shuck has pitched just three times over the course of his 12-season career in pro ball. While he has three years of experience on the mound from his college days, he’ll need quite a bit of preparation to handle the kind of workload expected from a two-way outfielder/reliever: 20+ innings pitched over a season and 20+ games played as a designated hitter or position player.
Still, his lack of experience doesn’t seem to faze Broadway, at least not this early in the process. There’s no word yet on how soon Shuck would be expected to debut his new skillset on a major-league level.