Back in December, the Los Angeles Angels were the lucky team two-way Japanese star Shohei Ohtani picked to play for in 2018. The Angels signed Ohtani to a bargain contract (due to the cap on international spending and Ohtani’s exposure to those rule) and the entire baseball world (especially Angels fans) have been awaiting his highly anticipated Spring Training debut on Saturday.
Ohtani battled injury in 2017, but it was nothing major and he finished his 2017 campaign with a .332 batting average with 16 doubles and 8 home runs in 65 games while making just 5 starts with a 3.20 ERA with a 3-2 win-loss record.
In 2016, Ohtani turned heads hitting a full line of .322/.416/.588, with 18 doubles, 22 homers, 67 RBI, 65 runs, along with 7 stolen bases in 382 plate appearances. Ohtani’s pitching was equally efficient. In 2016, Ohtani had a win-loss record of 10-4, with a 1.86 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, 174 strikeouts, 45 walks, with 4 complete games and 1 shutout in 140 innings.
Shohei Ohtani started the Angels off against the Milwaukee Brewers with a “B” lineup behind him and a tremendous amount of hype surrounding him. In 1 1/3 innings, Ohtani gave up two hits, two runs (one earned), a walk, two strikeouts, and a very loud home run from Keon Broxton.
Ohtani received a warm standing ovation (from a crowd of an unusually large 6,019 fans eager to see Ohtani start) as he walked out to the mound to make his first Major League start, and in his 1 1/3 innings of work, Ohtani had mixed results.
The Japanese Babe Ruth fell behind leadoff hitter Jonathan Villar, 3-1, who then cracked a line drive to deep center (over the head of center fielder Eric Young Jr.) that bounced over the wall for a ground-rule double. Ohtani then struck out Nathan Orf and walked former Angel Ji-Man Choi. Ohtani then threw a wild pitch with Manny Pina and, after Choi attempted to advance to second, Martin Maldonado made an errant throw to second, allowing Villar to score. The cleanup hitter Manny Pina popped out to Martin Maldonado in foul territory, and the inning came to a close after Ohtani struck Brett Philips on 4 pitches.
The Angels got a rally going in the bottom of the 1st and took a 2-1 lead over the Brewers after a two-run single by Martin Maldonado with the bases loaded.
Ohtani started the second inning, but after lead-off hitter, Keon Broxton hit a loud home run off Shohei to left field and Ohtani retired Nick Franklin on a fly out, Mike Scioscia came out and ended Ohtani’s first MLB outing.
While Ohtani’s first outing as a Major Leaguer went far less smoothly than anticipated, Ohtani was showing off his fantastic array of pitches and showed everyone that he is the real deal. Overall, Ohtani looked like a talented pitcher who was just having an uneven dry run (mainly because of his struggles controlling his fastball) and looks like once he relaxes a bit as Spring Training rolls along, he will be a very valuable asset to the Angels.
It has been reported that Ohtani will make his debut as a hitter as soon as Monday, and this will give the baseball world yet another reason to be excited this Spring Training.