Christian Bethancourt is shifting from his familiar post behind the plate to the pitching rubber for the 2017 season.
According to MLB.com's AJ Cassavell, the San Diego Padres officially named Bethancourt to their Opening Day roster Saturday as a pitcher after the team was impressed by his presence on the mound during spring training.
While Bethancourt is still slated to contribute in some capacity as a catcher and utility outfielder, Padres manager Andy Green told reporters Saturday the 25-year-old will operate as a relief arm out of the bullpen.
"Pitcher," Green said when asked what position Bethancourt will play most often, per Cassavell. "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."
Bethancourt didn't blow batters away over the past couple of months, but Cassavell noted he was solid to the tune of two runs, four walks and four hits allowed in 9.2 innings during spring training.
While the change would appear to be a big one for a player who has 1.2 innings of regular-season pitching experience under his belt, Bethancourt doesn't appear fazed by the challenge he's about to embrace.
"I feel pretty confident in my stuff," he said, per Cassavell. "I've still got more to learn and get more confident pitching in the Major Leagues. But it's not like I've never been there. It's just at a different position, a different perspective. I'm not going to be nervous. It's not like I've never been in the Major Leagues."
And after the Padres ranked 11th in the National League last year with a bullpen ERA of 4.18, taking a low-risk flier on a player like Bethancourt—who still packs untapped potential—is the kind of move that could pay unforeseen dividends if he makes a developmental leap in 2017.