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Slash
2003-03-11 09:13
by Jon Weisman
Note: The Dodger Thoughts blog has moved to the Los Angeles Times.

Brooks Kieschnick is trying to make the Milwaukee Brewers as a relief pitcher/backup outfielder. Wayward pitcher Rick Ankiel of the St. Louis Cardinals is also getting Spring Training work as a pinch hitter.

Could Darren "Slash" Dreifort be the one who officially makes the pitcher/hitter a trend?

Dreifort's double-duty exploits at Wichita State are a wee legend. He batted .318 with 25 home runs and 89 RBI in 314 at-bats, in addition to going 26-5 with 17 saves and a 2.24 ERA. With the Dodgers, he hit two home runs in a game against the Cubs on August 8, 2000, and has six homers in 223 career at-bats.

For about half my life, I've been thinking that players like Dreifort and John Olerud, who was a star pitcher for Washington State, have been pigeonholed to quickly in their careers. I understand it's hard enough to master one set of skills, let alone two sets, but it's been hard for me to believe that no one in the majors can do it.

Anyway, with the new interest in the idea thanks to Kieschnick and Ankiel, I took a closer look at Dreifort's batting record in preparation to promote his candidacy. And you know what? It doesn't really look like he's the guy.

Dreifort's batting average has declined in each of the last four years he played (1998-2001). He's never had a seasonal OPS over .600. Even with extensive batting practice, even if he is truly healthy, it stretches credibility to imagine that Dreifort could raise his hitting skills to the point of being more than an emergency batsman. There are many better hitting pitchers out there today.

Too bad. It looks like he's going to have to earn that salary on the mound.

(By the way, I'm not sure that Kieschnick is going to be one of those better-hitting pitchers, either. Of course, he still hasn't pitched in an official major-league game yet. And as a full-time hitter, his career OPS is only .702. The good news is that he's only had 192 plate appearances; the bad news is that it's taken him past the age of 30 to get them. Make no mistake, though, I'll be rooting for him.)

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