Los Angeles Angels two-way player Shohei Ohtani took the mound on Saturday and fans all across baseball took notice. The spotlight was already on as he turned in what critics viewed as a so-so spring training outing.
He labored with his control and threw 31 pitches, only 17 of them for strikes, and completed only 1.1 innings. He gave up two runs, including a solo shot off the bat of Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Keon Broxton.
Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com wrote: “Shohei Ohtani’s spring training pitching debut is one that he’ll file under ‘learning curve.’” Crasnick also noted that Ohtani appeared “over-amped” on the mound.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia commented that they learned some things from Ohtani’s outing as he threw all his pitches, for the most part effectively, though at times he lost his release point. Let’s keep it in perspective – it’s 1.1 innings of what I hope will be a storied career in Major League Baseball for the uber-talented 23-year-old sensation from Japan.
In 2017, Ohtani played in only 65 games due to a lingering ankle injury and went 3-2 with a 3.20 earned run average. He may need to knock the rust off this spring to regain the spectacular form he showed in 2016, when he went 10-4 with a 1.86 ERA in 140 innings pitched.
Pitching debut in the rear-view mirror, Ohtani will be making his hitting debut within the coming days. Again, in a limited 65 games, Ohtani hit .332 with eight home runs and 31 RBIs and in 2016, he hit .322/.416/.588 with 22 home runs in 382 innings. Fans are eager to see his bat in the lineup and are hoping he brings some power with it. Ohtani took home Most Valuable Player honors in Nippon Professional Baseball’s Pacific League for his two-way prowess.
MLB fans are used to pitchers with power, but not Ohtani kind of power. Even one of MLB’s best hitting pitchers, Noah Syndergaard, hit only .190/.277/.397 with three home runs in 29 games in 2016.
Ohtani is under the microscope this spring as he makes the transition to MLB and despite the fact that I’m not an Angels fan, I am a big fan of baseball, and will be rooting for Ohtani to succeed with the bat and on the mound. It will be exciting to watch the progress of the sport’s only true pitcher-hitter hybrid.
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