One of the more fascinating stories during spring training was Christian Bethancourt’s attempt to become a two-way player.
As we learned on Saturday, his hard work has paid off.
The veteran catcher-turned-pitcher earned a place on the San Diego Padres opening day roster, and according to manager Andy Green his primary role will be that of a relief pitcher.
Andy Green says Christian Bethancourt will primarily be a reliever. #padres
— Annie Heilbrunn (@annieheilbrunn) April 1, 2017
Bethancourt earned his spot after allowing two runs on four hits and four walks in 9 2/3 spring innings. It’s a mighty small sample size to be sure. We know it didn’t always come against the best competition either. But his raw ability and versatility were too good to ignore.
Chances are it was Bethancourt’s final spring outing that sealed the deal. According to MLB.com’s A.J. Cassavell, Bethancourt lit up the radar gun with a 96 mph fastball while recording 1 2/3 scoreless innings on Friday night. It’s that fastball, which Bethancourt first displayed in two mop up pitching appearances last season, that has San Diego so intrigued and willing to roll the dice in a clear rebuilding season.
“Pitcher,” Green said of Bethancourt’s role following that outing. “That’s the way we’re looking at him primarily right now. … The eighth bullpen arm, which, when you look at our schedule, is incredibly necessary. He gives us a flexibility that no other bullpen arm can do, which is pinch-hit capabilities, and cover the field capability.”
As noted, Bethancourt will serve multiple purposes for the Padres. In addition to pinch-hitting and being available to catch, he’s also ready to log some time in the outfield.
That versatility would be unparalleled in recent baseball history. In fact, Bethancourt will serve as the first position player/pitcher hybrid since Brooks Kieschnick did it for the Milwaukee Brewers back in 2004. Kieschnick, though, was only able to play outfield.
“You’ve got to be ready for any situation at any time,” Bethancourt said of his new role. “I’ve known since last year my role was going to be different — pitching, catching, playing the outfield, pinch-hitter. So I see myself just trying to be ready and prepared for anything, anytime.”
That Bethancourt is embracing his new role will go a long ways toward making it a success. That the Padres have plenty of opportunities to give won’t hurt either.
Three Rule 5 picks, four catchers (although Bethancourt will primarily be a pitcher). The Padres' opening-day roster: pic.twitter.com/vsa2G1kocs
— Dennis Lin (@sdutdennislin) April 1, 2017
With Bethancourt, the Padres are essentially carrying eight relievers and four catchers. They’re also carrying three Rule 5 picks, which are basically prospects or projects that will have to remain on the Padres 25-man roster all season or be offered back to their former clubs. They’re not guys major league managers typically like to rely on, which means Green will be relying even more on his core.
Though Bethancourt is also a project, he figures to be part of that core. In fact, he should benefit the most from San Diego’s hodgepodge roster.
More MLB opening day coverage from Yahoo Sports:
• Ranking all 30 opening day starters
• Everything you need to know for baseball’s opening day
• MLB predictions 2017: World Series picks, standings and award-winners
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