By Norm Elrod
With Opening Day just over a week away, teams around the league are rounding into form, or scrambling to fill gaps as suspensions, injuries and growing pains become a reality. One high-profile signing continues his struggles to adapt to the Majors. A five-time All-Star inks an extension that should lock him in for an additional five years. And the suspensions and injuries continue to add up. This is the Spring Training Report for Week 4 of the pre-season.
Shohei Ohtani Struggles
The Los Angeles Angels didn’t sign Japanese sensation Shohei Ohtani for his bat, or at least not only for his bat. They signed him as a starting pitcher, who could slide right into their rotation, albeit one who could DH on his off days. After all, he did hit .286 with 48 home runs over the last five seasons with the Nippon Ham Fighters, while posting a 2.52 ERA with 624 strikeouts. But Ohtani has struggled in Spring Training, at the plate and on the mound, going 2 for 24 and serving up eight earned runs in just 2 and 2/3 innings. It’s still early, and some adjustment is to be expected. The Angels and Ohtani are confident things will work out and have already seen progress. Whether that progress shows up on the field — and in the stats — remains to be seen.
Jose Altuve Gets Paid
The Houston Astros and Jose Altuve, the American League’s current MVP, have agreed to a contract extension worth $151 million over five years. The second baseman remains under contract for the 2018 season at $6 million, with an option for the 2019 season at $6.5 million, which the Astros will likely pick up. The contract extension would kick in after that. Altuve, who will turn 28 in May, is coming off his best season in the majors, which, of course, ended in an Astros World Series championship. A career .316/.362/.453 hitter and five-time All-Star, he batted .346 in 2017, with .410 OBP and .547 SLG, while solidly fielding his position.
Jorge Polanco Suspended for PEDs
The Minnesota Twins need another shortstop. Jorge Polanco, who started 133 games for the team in 2017 and was penciled in at the position this season, was recently suspended for 80 games after testing positive for Stanozolol. The Twins are hoping to improve upon last season’s AL Wild Card appearance, in an AL Central dominated by the Cleveland Indians. The 23-year-old Polanco, who hit .256 with 13 HR and 74 RBI last season, would’ve been an important piece. Now the Twins have a hole to fill at shortstop, with the regular season starting next week.