Angels' Ohtani honored by praise from Ichiro

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Friday, March 22, 2019

TEMPE, Ariz. -- During his news conference in Tokyo after playing his final game, Ichiro Suzuki mentioned young Los Angeles Angels star Shohei Ohtani, saying the two-way player could be one of the best in the world.

Ohtani was flattered to hear that from his idol and Japanese countryman.

"Obviously, it's one of the most honoring things coming from Ichiro and I'm really thankful he went out of his way to mention my name at his retirement press conference," Ohtani said Friday through an interpreter.

Ohtani did send a text message to Ichiro to congratulate him on his stellar career and got a reply.

"I was very thankful [he replied] because he's probably busy with a lot of things going on," Ohtani said.

Friday was Ohtani's last rehab day in Arizona. He will join most of the Angels who will head to Anaheim in preparation for their final exhibition games against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Freeway Series.

The American League Rookie of the Year, Ohtani is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow and will not pitch this year. He has been hitting in controlled situations and playing catch, throwing from a maximum of 50 feet. If all goes well, Ohtani is expected to be ready to be the Angels' designated hitter in May.

"I have no frustrations at all but I am eager to keep moving toward the next step," Ohtani said. "I'm eager but once the games get going after opening day, it will probably hit me harder and I'll want to get back more."

Last season, Ohtani batted .285 with 22 home runs and 61 RBIs and went 4-2 with a 3.31 ERA in 10 starts. Does he have any goals this season?

"My first goal is to get back on the field," Ohtani said. "Depending on when I get back and how many at-bats I get, then I can start setting goals from there. It's hard to set goals at this point."