One of Major League Baseball’s biggest stories this season will be the progress of Shohei Ohtani, the two-way Japanese star who will make his debut with the Los Angeles Angels. Manager Mike Scioscia said on Tuesday night. Ohtani will follow Garrett Richards, Tyler Skaggs and Matt Shoemaker in the rotation. He also told the media Shohei Ohtani could see action in the lineup before his scheduled day to pitch.
Ohtani was one of the names this offseason, grabbing headlines with Giancarlo Stanton as MLB free agency wasn’t even on the radar. Ohtani was the subject of numerous rumors of where he may wind up playing baseball this season. Stanton’s name was all over the web, with national pundits following where the reigning National League MVP would take his bat in 2018.
With both stars in new locales, Ohtani’s media frenzy shifts to the west coast and a team in need of balance in the Angels pitching rotation.
“We haven’t determined our lineup yet, but he will start Sunday,” the manager said.
Per Deesha Thosar of MLB.com, in two Spring Training starts, Shohei Ohtani allowed nine hits and nine runs in just 2 2/3 innings. At the dish, he went 4-for-32 with three walks and 10 strikeouts.
After a shaky spring, many wondered if the Japanese rookie would break camp with the Angels or start the season in the Minor Leagues. But Ohtani flashed commanding pitches and showed signs of a deeper arsenal in his latest appearance. The right-hander threw 85 pitches in an intrasquad game in Tempe, Ariz., on Saturday, so he will be fully rested against the A’s in the Bay Area.
The 23-year-old Japanese native played for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters of Nippon Professional Baseball’s (NPB) Pacific League. Ohtani was the first pick of the Fighters in the 2012 draft. He has officially recorded the fastest pitch by a Japanese pitcher and in NPB history at 102.5 mph.
The Angels are in need of help and depth in their rotation. If Shoehei Ohtani can become a solid starter, giving the team much needed innings, it may help settle the staff down.
Ohtani’s presence and potential success could lead to future two-way players making an impact on MLB. The college and high school game has evolved, where players spend time in the field and on the mound. Brooks Kieschnick, John Van Benschoten, Adam Loewen and Rick Ankiel all attempted to have a career in the big leagues having pitched and played on the diamond.
While Ohtani’s bat is expected to help the Angels’ lineup, his arm is what may help Los Angeles balance its rotation.
“The last two years, we lost our whole starting rotation within the first month of both seasons, and that’s tough to overcome,” Scioscia said. “I think we have more depth. I think there are unique things as we get into the season and get our six-man rotation together that are going to help us.”