With spring training inching ever closer, the A.J. Burnett sweepstakes gathers more and more intrigue. The Phillies are reportedly very unlikely to land the right-hander, leaving the Pirates and Orioles as the most likely suitors. But as Jon Heyman of CBS Sports suggests, the Nationals could emerge as a late suitor:
Though a person with a Nats connection suggested they’d “most likely” stick with their current rotation unless a “value” materialized, Washington should never be counted out of the mix for another starting pitcher. As Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post pointed out recently, the Nats are known for making late-winter acquisitions.
Burnett says he prefers to stay close to his home in Maryland, which limits his list of potential destinations to four teams, essentially. Nationals Park is only a 75-minute drive away from his home in Monkton, Maryland according to Google Maps.
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.