LAS VEGAS — Shohei Ohtani won’t be the sport’s solely two-way participant for for much longer.
On Monday, the primary day of the winter conferences in Las Vegas, the Seattle Mariners made an in any other case understated roster transfer that signified what would possibly develop right into a rising development all through the business, claiming former first-round choose Kaleb Cowart off waivers from the Los Angeles Angels.
The Mariners stated they are going to deliver Cowart to spring coaching as a two-way participant.
Cowart, who hasn’t pitched within the main leagues or on the minor league degree, got here up as a 3rd baseman and has since developed right into a utility participant who can deal with second base, first base and left subject. The Mariners, out of the blue thrust into rebuilding mode, will add “right-handed pitcher” to Cowart’s job description, persevering with an experiment the Angels started earlier this offseason.
“I at all times loved doing each,” Cowart stated in a cellphone dialog. “I am enthusiastic about it.”
Cowart, a switch-hitter, was a extremely sought-after prospect popping out of Prepare dinner Excessive College in South Georgia in 2010. He was named Gatorade Participant of the 12 months as a senior, ending with a 1.05 ERA and a .654 batting common. ESPN’s Keith Regulation known as him “the highest two-way prospect” in that 12 months’s draft.
Roughly half the groups wished him as a pitcher, however Cowart, the 18th general choice by famed scouting director Eddie Bane, made it identified that he would forgo his Florida State scholarship solely to be a full-time place participant.
“If any individual would’ve thrown one thing loopy at me, I in all probability would’ve pitched,” Cowart stated. “However I actually wished to play [a position].”
It wasn’t till October, when he was 9 years faraway from going through hitters, that Cowart obtained again on the mound.
The Angels spoke with Cowart and his agent towards the tip of the 2018 season about the potential of pitching. Within the first week of the offseason, Cowart threw a bullpen session in entrance of Angels executives. He sat within the decrease 90s with an arm that wasn’t absolutely in form, and he stated he combined in a splitter, a cutter and a curveball.
Angels basic supervisor Billy Eppler stated he “thought it appeared OK.” They offered two situations to Cowart — taking part in a number of days per week after which pitching or pitching solely — however determined to desk a choice till Spring Coaching.
Cowart, nevertheless, was out of choices. The Angels tendered him a contract, then tried to slip him by means of outright waivers in hopes of sending him to the minor leagues so he might hold engaged on pitching. That allowed the division-rival Mariners to declare him. Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto, who is aware of Cowart properly from his time with the Angels, advised reporters that he thinks Cowart is usually a profitable two-way participant who throws within the mid-90s.
“A reasonably powerful man to evaluate to is Shohei Ohtani,” Cowart stated when requested whether or not he might deal with a two-way function. “However shoot, I imply, I can throw exhausting.”
Cowart struggled mightily in Double-A from 2013 to 2014, along with his OPS by no means getting as excessive as .620. He thought of transitioning to a pitcher then however held off as soon as he discovered success hitting. This previous season, whereas batting solely .134/.210/.241 in 124 plate appearances, Cowart obtained an up-close take a look at Ohtani, who posted a .925 OPS and a three.31 ERA to win the American League Rookie of the 12 months Award.
“It’s actually exhausting,” Cowart stated of being a two-way participant. “He has an enormous workload. I imply, you have got an enormous workload when you’re only a hitter or only a pitcher. Think about when you have to do each. The place the sport is nowadays, the entrance workplace needs a lot roster flexibility. And when you have a man who can do that stuff, why not do it?”
The Tampa Bay Rays try to groom the subsequent two-way star in Brendan McKay, the fourth general choose in final 12 months’s draft. Tanner Dodson, one of many Rays’ second-round picks this 12 months, is making an attempt, too. Matt Davidson, non-tendered by the Chicago White Sox, may additionally be a slot in a two-way function.
Eppler has observed gamers turning into extra vocal about their skill to deal with pitching and hitting.
“I do assume that gamers are going to be extra prepared to do this as a result of they are going to take a look at it as one other avenue to have versatility,” Eppler stated from his room on the Mandalay Bay in Vegas. “It is simply one other avenue for them, and so it is smart that they might be open to it. And I believe groups are simply turning into extra open-minded basically in baseball with every little thing. ‘We’re going to play with four-man outfields’ or ‘We’re going to play with five-man infields.’ So why not?”