While there have been questions over whether the Angels will demote Shohei Ohtani to the minors to begin the season, it seems they do plan to have him open 2018 in the majors, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register reports. In terms of results, it hasn’t been a good spring for the 23-year-old Japanese phenom, who has yielded 15 earned runs against 25 outs as a pitcher and collected just two hits in 20 at-bats as a hitter. However, on the pitching side, Ohtani has struck out 19 batters and issued only three walks, which has encouraged the Angels, according to Fletcher. They’re also confident he’ll turn it around at the plate. “The track record gives us the confidence to move forward with him as a two-way player,” general manager Billy Eppler said.
More from the American League:
- The Astros may head into the season with an all-righty bullpen, thanks to the struggles left-hander Tony Sipp has endured in recent years, Oliver Macklin of MLB.com relays. Sipp, whom the Astros re-signed to a three-year, $18MM deal heading into 2016, posted back-to-back subpar seasons entering this year and hasn’t fared well this spring. Manager A.J. Hinch conceded that going with an all-righty relief corps is “an option,” though he suggested he’d rather see Sipp rebound to his pre-2016 ways. Sipp, who’ll turn 35 in July, is due to earn $6MM in the final year of his contract.
- Red Sox knuckleballer Steven Wright may open the season in the team’s rotation, Ian Browne of MLB.com writes. Wright, who has been working back from the season-ending left knee surgery he underwent last May, threw three innings of live batting practice Saturday and called it “a huge, huge step in the right direction.” There’s also optimism about left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, who had knee surgery last October. Of Rodriguez, manager Alex Cora said, “It seems like Eddie, he’s in a sprint right now, which is great.” Meanwhile, lefty Drew Pomeranz – yet another injured Red Sox starter – will throw a minor league game Sunday as he attempts to bounce back from a mild flexor strain. Cora noted that “you can’t rule out” Pomeranz or either of the other banged-up starters from beginning the year in Boston’s rotation.
- Rangers pitching prospect Cole Ragans has a UCL injury that may require Tommy John surgery, Robert Murray of FanRag hears. The 20-year-old left-hander, whom MLB.com ranks as the Rangers’ sixth-best prospect, is in his third year with the organization. A first-round pick in 2016, Ragans spent last season at the low-A level and pitched to a 3.61 ERA across 13 appearances (all starts) and 57 1/3 innings, also notching 13.66 K/9 against 5.49 BB/9.
- Major League Baseball has given Blue Jays pitching prospect Thomas Pannone an 80-game suspension without pay after he tested positive for Dehydrochlormethyltestosterone, a performance-enhancing substance, per Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet. Pannone, a 23-year-old southpaw, ranks as MLB.com’s No. 20 Jays prospect. Acquired from the Indians in last summer’s Joe Smith trade, Pannone divided 2017 between the high-A and Double-A levels, where he combined for a 2.36 ERA with 9.3 K/9 against 2.2 BB/9 over 144 2/3 innings and 25 appearances (all starts).