Tempe, Arizona. Things are back to business as usual for Shuhei Ohtani on Friday.
The two-way star is back at the Los Angeles Angels camp after his MVP performance at the World Baseball Classic. Three days after beating Mike Trott to clinch the WBC title for Japan against the United States in Miami, Ohtani was on the backcourt in Tempe, getting into a minor league game against some Arizona Diamondbacks farmhands.
The Friday outing was to keep Ohtani on schedule for its opening day next Thursday in Oakland. He faced 19 batters, walking one and striking out eight. He allowed four hits, including a home run to Gavin Conticello. Arizona’s eighth round draft pick in 2021.
One of the other singles was by Druw Jones, the Diamondbacks’ first-round pick last season and son of 10-time Gold Glove-winning center Andruw Jones.
“Today’s game was for me to hit my pitch count, get my pitch clock going again and use PitchCom,” Ohtani said through an interpreter after pitching 78 pitches. “It’s all right on my end.”
“I felt like with all the courts and all the strength of the Classic, I was really ready for the opening day. Today was just adjusting things, getting used to (the new rules),” he said.
Ohtani made just one start for the Angels before leaving for Japan, pitching 9 2/3 innings pitched with a 1.86 ERA in three WBC matches. His most recent appearance was the ninth appearance on Tuesday against the United States, where he fanned Trout on a full count slider to start the celebration.
But the party didn’t last long, as Otani returned to the MLB team on Wednesday so he can start preparing for the regular season — after which the 28-year-old will be a free agent. He was runner-up in American League MVP voting after hitting 34 homers and driving in 95 kicks last season, as well as posting a 2.33 ERA in 28 starts with a 15-9 record.
He didn’t hit on Friday, but Angels manager Phil Nevin said Ohtani would be the Angels’ DH for the three games in Los Angeles’ Highway series against the Dodgers starting Sunday that concludes the exhibition season. Trout, who did not return to Arizona after the WBC, would meet the Angels there.
Tuesday’s relief appearance was the day he was scheduled to pitch in between starts in the bullpen. It just happened on the big stage.
Nevin said he watched his two stars go head-to-head “just like any other fan.” He was willing to see Otani up close.
“I wasn’t worried about him at all,” Nevin said. “We planned it all along. I haven’t been able to convey that to you guys yet. We knew this was a possibility. I trust him and I trust he knows his body like no one else.”
As for Otani, the excitement was something he hadn’t felt in a long time, as the Angels weren’t rivals despite Otani and Trout’s best efforts.
“The first time I was doing a playoff performance like that since I was in Japan,” Ohtani said. “I’ve never seen a world championship, but I think it will be something similar.”
Nevin said he would be inclined to use Ohtani in relief the same way if the Angels could get into the postseason.
“I’ve been getting a lot of text messages… who am I rooting for, how am I feeling,” said the manager. “I can tell you exactly how I was feeling. I felt like this is the greatest game in the world. No other sport, no other situation can create the kind of drama and atmosphere of, one on one, the two best players in the world. That’s what makes our game.” amazing “.
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