Japanese phenom Shohei Ohtani may have struggled in spring training, but on the first major league swing of his career, Ohtani delivered with a single.
Batting eighth and playing designated hitter for the Los Angeles Angels, Ohtani took a 91-mph cutter from Oakland Athletics right-hander Kendall Graveman and hit it hard to right.
Ohtani was 1 for 5 with a strikeout in the game, an 11-inning, 6-5 loss to the A’s.
“I think with where the lineup is, we feel good with Shohei hitting there and getting some at-bats. We feel it’s a good matchup for him,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said before the game. “Obviously when he’s available to hit we’ll look at a number of different things and see if he’s going to be in the lineup or not.”
Ohtani is scheduled to make his pitching debut in Sunday’s series finale against the Athletics.
The 23-year-old left the Nippon Ham Fighters of Japan’s Pacific League during the offseason and joined the Angels for a $2,315,000 bonus. If Ohtani had waited two more years, he could have commanded a deal for $100 million or more.
Before the game, it seemed like just another day for the poised pitcher and hitter who is all of 23.
“We know that Shohei just like any player is excited but Shohei is well beyond his years as far analyzing the game and going out there and understanding his talent,” Scioscia said. “We’re very comfortable that he’s going to go out there and compete very well and hopefully help us win. I think the illusion might be he’s taking things in stride but he’s very confident and I don’t know if you get a sense of how hard he’s worked to get acclimated to baseball in the United States. I think he’s done a great job and we feel he’s ready.”
Scioscia hasn’t mapped out a plan for Ohtani beyond Sunday but warned he won’t have 700 plate appearances.
“I’m intrigued based on the fact that the athleticism is obvious. Looking at video from his time in Japan he is a true two-way guy,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said. “Hopefully he gets off to a rough start and we see what he’s all about later on when he leaves us.”
Scioscia is still getting accustomed to having a star who offers so much, with the bat and his arm.
“It’s almost like having two players, Shohei the hitter and Shohei the pitcher,” Scioscia said. “Why don’t we give him two numbers so looking at him we can decide, hey, he’s the hitter today, he’s the pitcher today. We’re going to see how this goes. I think the way it’s mapped out, especially with the six-man rotation, it gives it a chance to be very feasible and we just want to see how it works out. He swung the bat a lot in Japan and we feel that he’ll be able to handle what we project. “