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Braves calling up 3B/OF prospect Austin Riley

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We’ve had a rash of prospect callups recently. Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Keston Hiura, Nick Senzel, Michael Chavis, Carter Kieboom, Corbin Martin, Griffin Canning, Nicky Lopez. Others. Add another one to the pile: late last night the Braves announced that the were calling up third baseman/outfielder Austin Riley.

The “outfielder” part is relatively new — Riley is a third baseman — but with Josh Donaldson in Atlanta for a year, the Braves have had him working in the outfield so he might have a path to the bigs this year. Ender Inciarte‘s massive struggles at the plate this year — he’s hitting just .218/.300/.323 — were in the process of creating that path, and his leaving last night’s game against the Cardinals with back tightness finished the job. In all likelihood Inciarte will hit the injured list, Ronald Acuña Jr. will slide over to center to replace him, and Riley will play in left.

Riley, 22, is hitting .299 and has 15 homers and 17 walks in 37 Triple-A games this year. He has massive power potential and, while he strikes out a good deal, he has lowered his K-rate in the early going so far this year. If he hits, the Braves will find a place for him even if Inciarte makes his way back relatively soon.

 

Maddon: Shohei Ohtani won’t pitch again for Angels this year

Shohei Ohtani
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Shohei Ohtani won’t pitch again this season for the Los Angeles Angels after straining his right forearm in his second start, manager Joe Maddon says.

Ohtani likely will return to the Angels’ lineup as their designated hitter this week, Maddon said Tuesday night before the club opened a road series against the Seattle Mariners.

The Angels’ stance on Ohtani is unsurprising after the club announced he had strained the flexor pronator mass near the elbow of his pitching arm. The two-way star’s recovery from the strain requires him to abstain from throwing for four to six weeks, which covers most of the shortened 2020 season.

“I’m not anticipating him pitching at all this year,” Maddon said. “Any kind of throwing program is going to be very conservative.”

Ohtani was injured Sunday in the second inning of his second start since returning to the mound following Tommy John surgery in late 2018. Ohtani issued five walks during the 42-pitch inning against the Houston Astros, with his velocity dropping later in the frame.

The arm injury is another obstacle in Ohtani’s path to becoming the majors’ first true two-way player in decades. He made 10 mound starts as a rookie in 2018 before injuring his elbow, but he served as the Angels’ regular designated hitter last season while recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Ohtani has pitched in only three games since June 2018, but the Angels still believe in Ohtani’s ability to be a two-way player, Maddon said.

“I’m seeing that he can,” Maddon said. “We’ve just got to get past the arm maladies and figure that out. But I’ve seen it. He’s just such a high-end arm, and we’ve seen what he can do in the batter’s box. Now maybe it might get to the point where he may choose to do one thing over the other and express that to us. I know he likes to hit. In my mind’s eye, he’s still going to be able to do this.”

The veteran manager believes Ohtani will benefit from a full spring training and a normal season. Ohtani wasn’t throwing at full strength for a starter when the coronavirus pandemic shut down spring training in March because he wasn’t expected to pitch until May as he returned from surgery.

“Going into a regular season with a normal number of starts and all the things that permit guys to be ready for a year, that’s what we need to see is some normalcy before you make that kind of determination,” Maddon said.

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