Dual threat Shohei Ohtani 'would like to play more' for Angels

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Friday, April 13, 2018

As ifShohei Ohtani hasn't made a big-enough impact early in his major league career, he wants to do more.

The dual-purpose phenom has appeared in nine of the Angels' first 14 games -- starting twice as a pitcher and six times as designated hitter. While the team is resting the 23-year-old rookie on days before and after he pitches, Ohtani is eager to get more playing time.

"I talk to the medical staff every day, and they see how I'm doing, my strength level, to see if I can play that day," Ohtani told reporters via his translator after the Los Angeles Angels' 7-2 win on Wednesday night.

"It's the beginning of the season, so I think they are being pretty careful with me right now. Once the season gets tougher and the schedule gets tougher throughout the summer, hopefully I can make them want to play me more. I would like to play more. If not, that's what it is. I have to follow what they have to say."

Ohtani made his sixth start as the Angels' designated hitter in the road series opener against the Kansas City Royals on Thursday night, and went 1-for-4 with a three-run triple in the Angels' 7-1 win.

Ohtani, who has a fastball averaging about 99 mph along with a nasty splitter and a biting slider, was 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA and 18 strikeouts over 13 innings while allowing only four hits in his two starts on the mound.

In his first seven games with an at-bat, including one as a pinch-hitter, the left-handed slugger hit .346 with three homers. His 11 RBIs matched two-time AL MVP Mike Trout, who has played in every game, for the team lead.

Manager Mike Scioscia plans to have Ohtani serve as DH against the Royalson Friday, with a rest day Saturday before his next scheduled start in the rotation on Sunday.

All of Ohtani's pitching starts this season have come on six days' rest.

"He always says he's ready," Scioscia said. "But right now we're definitely going to protect him as much as we can.

"It's really trying to balance a little bit of a guy's ability obviously to swing the bat, and balance that with the need for him to be ready to pitch. The biggest thing is we will be flexible, so it's not in concrete. We'll check with him and see when he's available and we'll go from there."

Ohtani has started three consecutive games only once so far -- and he homered in each of those at home, a stretch that included a day off between series.

He was the first AL player to homer in three games in a row in the same season he started a game as a pitcher since Babe Ruth did it for the fifth time in 1930. The last player that had been the winning pitcher twice and hit three homers in his team's first 10 games was Jim Shaw for the 1919 Washington Senators.

"His talent level is special. I have nobody to compare to. I've never played with a guy that can hit the ball the way he does, and throw 100 at the time," Angels second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "His regimen is impressive, it's very thought out. He knows what he's coming to the ballpark to do that day, whether it's on the offensive side of the ball or defensive side."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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