Olney: Mariners appear destined to sign a big-name starting pitcher

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We’ve heard all sorts of talk about the Mariners attempting to upgrade their offense this winter, with names like Carlos Beltran and Nelson Cruz in the conversation, but ESPN’s Buster Olney writes that they might be better-positioned to land one of the top free agent starting pitchers on the market:

If the Mariners are truly ready to splurge on free agents, they’d probably have an easier time convincing pitchers to come to Seattle than hitters. While moving in the fences at Safeco Field resulted in increased offense this past season, the park still played slightly pitcher-friendly and continued to limit home runs. Of course, 81 games isn’t a big sample size, but its reputation as a pitchers’ park figures to linger.

The Mariners already have Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma at the top of their rotation and young right-hander Taijuan Walker looked promising during a late-season sneak preview, so their starting pitching could be pretty scary if they are able to sign one of those guys. But they’ll be losing a lot of 2-1 and 3-2 games unless they are able to add a bat or two, as well.

Report: Pirates to convert JB Shuck into two-way player

JB Shuck
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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.