Angels two-way player Shohei Ohtani had a rough spring training, but bounced back big time in his season debuts, securing several early career milestones.
Ohtani, the hitter, had a decent game and a remarkable one. First, he had an OK showing against Oakland on the road. The opening day jitters didn’t get to him at first as he laced a first pitch single into the outfield. Unfortunately, this didn’t last the whole game. He was retired the next four at-bats, finishing 1-for-5 with the lone single. What really impressed me was his performance in his homecoming game
For the first time, he stepped into the batter’s box as an Angel in Angels Stadium with the buzz of the fans and cameras flashing everywhere. He battled off a few pitches with two runners on, and then he barreled a pitch to right field…back, back, back…and gone. In his first home at bat he fittingly hit a home run. As someone in the crowd myself, I was losing my mind. Flashing ahead, Ohtani smacked a base hit above the glove of Jason Kipnis for his second hit of the night. He got rung up in his third at bat for a strikeout but finished the night with a clean stroke to center field his third knock of the night. At a blistering 112.8 mph off the bat it wasn’t a blooper. Ohtani impressed with the adjustments he’s made. While he was late in spring training and struggled with inside pitches, he showed up against Cleveland with an aggressive approach and better timing. Getting his foot down helped him stay balanced, and got him his first hit and home run in the bigs.
Ohtani, the pitcher, dazzled baseball fans in his first outing. He was able to fool them — for the most part. The most important thing, though, was his impressive arsenal of pitches, which he used to attack hitters throughout the game. Ohtani tossed six innings against Khris Davis, Matt Olson and company, punching out six and surrendering three runs on three hits. His only hiccups were in the second inning, in which Matt Chapman blasted a three-run home run. The pitch, a hanging slider, was one of the few “mistakes” he made. His splitter was sharp, along with his fastball, which hit 100 miles per hour on the radar gun. He also tossed curveballs and sliders, showing his versatility and flexibility. Hitters such as Marcus Semien were totally off-balance. That 27.00 Spring Training ERA is thankfully gone, and in his first “real” game, he looked great. Once again, the test will be consistency.
Ohtani has a long way to go before he’s “a top 10” talent, but the promise is showing itself. His performances this week show that (1) Spring Training isn’t the end all, be all and (2) that he can and will make adjustments to be the best player he can be whether it be on the mound or at the plate or both.