More two-way players? Maddon thinks so

February 16th, 2020

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Angels two-way star is obviously an incredibly rare talent with his ability to throw harder than 100 mph as a starting pitcher while also being able to hit for power and run at an above average speed as a position player.

But manager Joe Maddon said he believes there could be more two-way players in the Majors as long as clubs become more open to the idea. Other teams have experimented with the concept including the Reds with and the Rays with . And Maddon believes Cardinals right-hander is another player who could play both ways with enough practice as a hitter.

Maddon, though, said Major League teams have been slow to adopt the concept of a two-way player because of the presumed inherent injury risks. He’s hoping that Ohtani’s success will open the floodgates for others.

Major League Baseball also instituted new rules for two-way players, which makes it advantageous for a club to carry one because they don’t count toward the maximum of 13 pitchers. To qualify for the two-way designation, a player must pitch 20 Major League innings and have 20 games played as a position player or designated hitter, with at least three plate appearances in each of those 20 games. Ohtani was granted two-way status this year because of his time as a two-way player in 2018.

“It could have happened years ago but conventional wisdom at that time was that it was not permitted,” Maddon said Sunday. “I'm not saying like there are 50 guys like that in every draft, but you're going to get some more. Maybe 10 guys a year that are able to do that. I've seen a lot of guys who played collegiately as pitchers that were great athletes.”

Maddon added that he tried to get the Angels to make a Minor Leaguer pitcher named Deshawn Warren into a two-way player in the early 1990s, but the idea was rejected by then-general manager Danny O’Brien.

“There are guys out there,” Maddon said. “I just think you have to be impressively talented.”

Maddon also said he has no doubt that Ohtani can excel in a two-way role in 2020 after serving only as a designated hitter in ’19 because of his Tommy John surgery. Ohtani was the American League Rookie of the Year in ’18 and will return to pitching in mid-May. He is a career .286/.351/.522 hitter with 40 homers and 123 RBIs in 210 games as a DH and has posted a 3.31 ERA with 63 strikeouts in 51 2/3 innings as a pitcher.

“He can totally do it,” Maddon said. “He’s done it before at the highest level. He’s pitched well in the Major Leagues. He’s swung the bat well in the Major Leagues. He just needs to be healthy and have an opportunity. He’s blessed. He can do things a lot of people can’t.”

Angels tidbits
• Maddon met with new third baseman and said they both have an appreciation for fast cars. He’s still trying to determine where Rendon will hit in the lineup, but is expected to remain in the No. 2 hole. Rendon could hit third after Trout, or he could hit fourth if Ohtani bats third to break up the right-handed bats.

• Position players reported to camp on Sunday to undergo physicals, and Maddon said he wasn’t aware of any late arrivals. The first full-squad workouts are set for Monday. Maddon and his coaching staff will also host a team meeting in the morning before the first official team workout.

• Left-hander , who missed the first few days of camp due to illness, threw a bullpen session without any issues on Sunday and said he’s no longer feeling sick.