Brittany Ghiroli of MLB.com reports that the Washington Nationals are in agreement with reliever Bud Norris. The deal is pending a physical.
Norris, 34, posted 3.59 ERA with 28 saves and a 67/21 K/BB ratio over 57.3 innings with the Cardinals. He started spring training with the Blue Jays, injured his forearm and was released.
The Nationals will add him to a bullpen that has been a hot mess to start the season. And which was an injured hot mess to end last season. If they really wanted to upgrade in a major way they could sign Craig Kimbrel, but this morning Jon Heyman reported that the Nats are more interested in staying under the luxury tax than having one of the best relievers in the game on the roster. Viva baseball in 2019.
Not that Norris is chopped liver. While the forearm issue is a bit of a concern, his 2018 season showed that he can still be an effective reliever. The Nationals could certainly use one of those.
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.