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Inbox: What impact would Ohtani have?

Beat reporter Greg Johns fields Mariners fans' questions
MLB.com @gregjohnsmlb

If Shohei Ohtani signs with an American League team and is asked to both pitch and bat in the same game, how does that work with the designated hitter?
-- Tim, Yakima, Wash.

Every AL team has the choice of selecting a DH to bat for their pitcher before every game, and obviously that is what teams almost always do. But if a team doesn't select a DH in place of its pitcher, then that team can't use the DH in place of any pitcher for the rest of that game.

If Shohei Ohtani signs with an American League team and is asked to both pitch and bat in the same game, how does that work with the designated hitter?
-- Tim, Yakima, Wash.

Every AL team has the choice of selecting a DH to bat for their pitcher before every game, and obviously that is what teams almost always do. But if a team doesn't select a DH in place of its pitcher, then that team can't use the DH in place of any pitcher for the rest of that game.

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So if a team lets Ohtani hit and pitch at the start of a game in lieu of a DH, once he's taken out, they'd either have to let their relievers hit or use a pinch-hitter each time his spot in the lineup came up. Or they could shift Ohtani to a defensive position, but that would still leave the reliever in the batting order as the DH can't be added in during the game.

Mariners make presentation to Ohtani, reps

Realistically, what kind of impact could Ohtani make if he signs with the Mariners for next year?
-- Ben M., Victoria, Australia

Ohtani's largest impact figures to be as a pitcher. Most scouts see that as his biggest strength. Clearly there are some questions regarding how any player who has never competed in MLB will fare in their first season, but signing a 23-year-old who can throw 100-plus mph, has a quality slider and split-finger changeup to complement the fastball and has been a dominant force in Japan would be a big addition to Seattle's rotation and a potential difference-maker for a team that has been close to making the playoffs the past two years.

:: Shohei Ohtani coverage ::

I think any offense Ohtani provided would be a bonus. Adapting as a young Major League hitter, particularly in a part-time role around his pitching schedule, figures to be a tougher challenge. But from all accounts, he's an excellent athlete who provides a big potential power bat, and it will be fascinating to see how much he can provide at the plate for whatever team signs him.

Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto has said he'd be willing to move Nelson Cruz to the outfield a few games a week to let Ohtani play DH. And Cruz is 37 and in the final year of his contract, so Ohtani potentially offers longer-term help there as well.

What's your theory for why the Mariners often had 13 pitchers on their active roster when the 13th pitcher often wasn't used?
-- Ian R., Seattle

The Mariners kept an extra pitcher for much of last season due in part to the injuries to their rotation and the fact some of the fill-in pitchers were inexperienced and only providing four to five innings per start. But going with an extra arm in the bullpen is a strategy more teams seem to be employing, and while all eight relievers obviously don't get used every game, the extra reliever provides an added option and helps prevent overuse of the bullpen over the long haul.

I keep hearing that Ohtani can only be signed to a Minor League contract. Does that mean he will spend his first year in Tacoma If signed to the Mariners?
-- Jason, Graham, Wash.

No. Numerous players on Minor League deals are promoted to the Majors each season. When they are, teams must add them to their 40-man roster and pay them at the Major League minimum rate of $545,000, which is surely what will happen with Ohtani, wherever he goes.

Video: Benschoten on Ohtani's potential as two-way player

Any word on a possible contract extension for Dipoto? CEO John Stanton has expressed confidence in him, do you think that confidence could lead to an extension?
-- Easton A., Spokane, Wash.

Stanton acknowledged earlier this offseason that both Dipoto and manager Scott Servais are entering the third and final year on their initial contracts, but he didn't sound concerned about that situation. I don't think there's any reason to rush into extensions with a full season still to go, particularly coming off last year's disappointing record. But the sense I get is that Seattle's management likes the direction and vision Dipoto has put in place, understands that injuries sidetracked much of that plan last year and will likely work to extend Dipoto and Servais at some point in the coming year unless things somehow go off the rails.

I've read that Scott Brosius has helped Mike Zunino find a more successful hitting approach. Brosius has been hired as our new third-base coach. Do you see further improvement for Zunino?
-- Scott M., Pebble Beach, Calif.

Brosius was Tacoma's hitting coach two years ago and Zunino indeed credits the former Yankees standout with helping him when he was sent down to Triple-A. And the two continued to work together, along with Mariners hitting coach Edgar Martinez, last season when Brosius was promoted to Seattle as an assistant coach.

Video: SEA@LAA: Zunino blasts a two-run homer to left-center

So clearly Zunino will keep working with both Brosius and Martinez this coming season, with the goal of continuing to improve. Though after his big breakthrough in the second half last year, I'm pretty sure everyone would be happy if Zunino can just stay consistent and maintain what he was doing last season, when he finished with a .251/.331/.509 line with 25 home runs.

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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