Ausmus rests Ohtani, scuttling Kikuchi matchup

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Friday, May 31, 2019

SEATTLE -- Brad Ausmus disappointed countless Japanese baseball fans Thursday with one decision.

"Japanese baseball fans don't like me right now. Tell them I'm sorry," Ausmus joked.

The first-year Los Angeles Angels manager ruined the potential matchup between Japanese stars Shohei Ohtani and Seattle's Yusei Kikuchi in the series opener with his decision to sit Ohtani. It would have been the first meeting between the pair in the majors. The duo faced each other in five at-bats when they played in Nippon Professional Baseball.

But that first meeting in the majors will have to wait.

"There is a very good chance they will end up facing each other at some point so I wasn't overly concerned about that," Ausmus said.

Ausmus stressed it was strictly a baseball decision and the plan all along was to rest Ohtani at least one day during the Seattle series with the Mariners set to throw three left-handed starters in the four games. Ausmus liked how Ohtani matched up against Tommy Milone and Marco Gonzales better than he did Kikuchi. Milone and Gonzales will start Saturday and Sunday.

Ohtani has played in 19 games and is hitting .237 with two homers and 11 RBI after missing the start of the season while recovering from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.

Kikuchi got the upper-hand in their limited meetings while playing professionally in Japan, striking out Ohtani three of the five official at-bats. Ohtani did have a single and double in the two other plate appearances.

Ohtani and Kikuchi both attended Hanamaki Higashi High School in Japan but were never teammates. It would have been the second matchup against former Japanese high school teammates in the majors. In 2007, Colorado's Kazuo Matsui and Pittsburgh's Masumi Kuwata faced off in the sixth inning of a game between the Rockies and Pirates. Matsui grounded out. The duo had attended PL Gakuen High School in Osaka.

Seattle manager Scott Servais deadpanned he would have preferred a different name being left out of the Angels lineup.

"He left (Mike) Trout in there," Servais joked.