Angels rookie Shohei Ohtani tallies two walks, RBI in DH debut

ByJerry Crasnick ESPN logo
Tuesday, February 27, 2018

PEORIA, Ariz. -- Shohei Ohtani displayed a blend of patience and aggressiveness in his designated hitter debut with the Los Angeles Angels. At the end of the day, he had a 1.000 on-base percentage, his first Cactus League hit and something small to build upon.

Two days after his first outing as a starter, Ohtani was in the starting lineup for the Angels in a road game against the San Diego Padres. He walked in his first two plate appearances before jumping on the first pitch from reliever Michael Mariot and hitting a hard ground RBI single up the middle in the top of the fifth inning. Manager Mike Scioscia called for a pinch runner, and Ohtani received a warm ovation from the sparse crowd at Peoria Sports Complex on his way back to the dugout.

"I was able to see a lot of pitches, and that was really good,'' Ohtani said. "I just want to keep it going. I'm seeing the ball pretty well right now. Hopefully, I can have better at-bats. I think this goes for almost every player, but my hitting is always ahead of my pitching at this point in the year. It's just like any other year."

The Angels are trying to devise a comfortable and workable routine as Ohtani pursues his goal of making an impact as a two-way player. His primary focus will be as a member of a six-man starting rotation, but he is also expected to contribute as a DH.

Scioscia said Ohtani could be in the lineup at DH again Tuesday depending on how he feels after his debut. The Angels play the Cubs on Friday and have a "B'' game the same day, and Ohtani is expected to make his second Cactus League start in one of those games.

The atmosphere against San Diego was considerably more low-key than in Ohtani's pitching debut Saturday, when he struggled with his control over 1 1/3 innings in a 6-5 loss to Milwaukee. A crowd of 6,019 was on hand in Tempe for that game, and Ohtani had trouble keeping his delivery in sync while throwing 17 strikes and 14 balls.

Ohtani batted second in the order between center fielder Eric Young Jr. and shortstop David Fletcher on Monday. Scioscia, citing the unusually early start to spring training this year, has yet to play Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, Justin Upton or any of Los Angeles' other high-profile regulars.

Ohtani fell behind 0-2 against right-hander Jordan Lyles in his first at-bat, then laid off four straight pitches out of the strike zone for a walk. He walked again on five pitches against lefty Buddy Baumann before facing Mariot, a righty reliever with 44 career appearances in Philadelphia and Kansas City. Ohtani drove a fastball through the box to score Young and give the Angels a 4-1 lead before calling it a day.

"I was happy to get that first hit out of the way,'' Ohtani said, "but I was also happy with my first two at-bats. I got to see a lot of pitches. And I got to see a righty and a lefty. I felt like I had three good at-bats, including the first two.

"One of the reasons I saw so many pitches my first two at-bats is that I just wanted to see the difference in the strike zones between Japan and the States. I felt like I accomplished that. Plus, there was a runner in scoring position, so I just wanted to be aggressive."

Although the Angels have yet to outline a specific workload for Ohtani, his last healthy season in Japan could provide a bit of a roadmap. In 2016, Ohtani threw 140 innings and logged 323 at-bats as an outfielder for the Nippon Ham Fighters. Last year, his workload was curtailed by injuries, and he made only five starts as a pitcher and hit .332 with a .942 OPS for the Fighters.

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