Sports Shohei Ohtani making history with 2-way success for Angels

11:05  10 may  2021
11:05  10 may  2021 Source:   thecanadianpress.com

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Shohei Ohtani batted four-for-four to became the first Japanese-born player to hit for the cycle in Major League Baseball as the Los Angeles Angels beat the Tampa Bay Rays 5-3 on Thursday. The 24-year-old Ohtani made history with a single to centre field in the seventh inning to cap the cycle -- when a batter hits a home run, triple, double and single in a game. Ohtani blasted a three-run home run in the first inning and doubled to lead off the third inning of the game in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Shohei Ohtani (大谷 翔平, Ōtani Shōhei , born July 5, 1994), nicknamed "Sho Time", is a Japanese professional baseball pitcher and designated hitter for the Los Angeles Angels of Major League

ANAHEIM, Calif. — The only weakness in Shohei Ohtani's incredible two-way game these days is his control, and it's bugging the Los Angeles Angels' star.

a baseball player holding a bat on a field © Provided by The Canadian Press

Although Ohtani is off to a superb start to a season with no analogue in the past baseball century, he has walked 19 batters in his four mound appearances.

Ohtani has fully emerged as one of the best hitters and also one of the most intriguing starting pitchers in baseball early in his fourth big league season. He's still a meticulous perfectionist with no real hobbies or interests outside of getting better — and video games, of course.

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ANAHEIM, Calif. — No pitcher in the American League's 118-year history — not Roger Clemens, not Whitey Ford, not Lefty Grove, not Walter Johnson — had achieved what the Angels ' Shohei Ohtani did on Mother's Day. The 23-year-old Japanese rookie became the first to accumulate at least 11 strikeouts in two of his first six career starts during the Angels ' In addition, Ohtani 's 43 strikeouts through his first six starts are the most ever by an Angels pitcher in that span. Sunday was just the latest dominant performance from a player who has become one of the bigger stories in recent baseball history .

Shohei Ohtani of Japan, the Angels ’ pitcher, designated hitter and media sensation, has been shielded by the team on and off the field.Credit Jae C. Hong/Associated Press. King Kong imagery aside, the arrival of the baby-faced Ohtani , who can belt tape-measure home runs and fire 100 mile-an-hour fastballs, has thrust this sleepy franchise into the national (and international) spotlight in a way that even Mike Trout, widely considered the best player in baseball, and Albert Pujols, who is closing in on 3,000 career hits, have.

So while he piles up homers (a major league-leading 10, with his bat) and strikeouts (30, with his arm) even more quickly than Babe Ruth did when he first joined the Yankees as a two-way player 101 years ago, Ohtani is also searching for the reasons behind his wayward control — particularly in the first inning, when he has issued eight of those walks.

“I think I’m just trying to rush everything and get out of the inning as quick as I can,” Ohtani said earlier this week through his translator. “I need to slow down and not rush everything as much.”

Not much happens quickly in baseball, and not just because of the languorous modern pace of play. Prospects become major league regulars — and regulars become legends — usually over the course of months and years, not days or weeks.

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One small step sent Shohei Ohtani toward two - way success in MLB. That adjustment -- made as late as it was -- has given credibility to Ohtani 's quest to pull off something that hasn't been done in the major leagues in 100 years. A little more than four weeks in, Ohtani has a 4.43 ERA in 20⅓ innings and a .333 batting average in 42 at-bats. It is exceedingly early, but Ohtani already looks like a different player from the one who struggled to get outs on the mound and record hits at the plate against inferior talent in the build-up to the regular season.

Shohei Ohtani is an international superstar along the lines of Ichiro Suzuki, and a 23-year-old talent with the long-term horizon of a Mike Trout or Bryce Harper. Most important, Ohtani wants to be a pitcher and a hitter on a regular basis. With the possible exception of Babe Ruth and Brooks Kieschnick, few Ichiro and Hideki Matsui have since answered any questions about stardom in Japan translating to the U.S. Now Ohtani will try to blaze a different trail. He'll be under tremendous scrutiny because of his impressive two - way skill set. "This is not just signing a player," said a longtime MLB executive

Nearly three years after the mound portion of his remarkable AL Rookie of the Year campaign ended with a torn elbow ligament requiring Tommy John surgery, Ohtani has slowly, deliberately built himself back into a unique force. The Angels knew it might take years to achieve Ohtani’s dream to become the majors’ most consistent two-way player in decades, but the Japanese star has returned to that uncharted baseball territory this spring.

With a 2.41 ERA complemented by some of the majors' best power numbers at the plate, Ohtani has been the transcendent player in 2021 that he and the Angels patiently believed he would become. The next goals are consistency, longevity and health for a preternaturally talented athlete who has only been held back by injury.

“He’s feeling so good, and doing so well," said Angels manager Joe Maddon, who encouraged Ohtani's move to play every day this season. “There’s a lot of positive adrenalin rolling within him right now, so let’s play that all the way out.”

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Despite another setback that will put Shohei Ohtani 's pitching career on hold, Los Angeles Angels manager Joe Maddon believes his two - way star still has a future as a hitter and pitcher. It just won’t happen in 2020. Before Tuesday's game against the Seattle Mariners, Maddon confirmed there are no plans for Ohtani to pitch again this season after he was diagnosed That’s why there’s no real upside in pushing Ohtani to pitch again in 2020. Giving him time to heal and another full offseason geared toward rebuilding his strength and confidence will give him the best chance for success down the road.

The Angels ' Shohei Ohtani follows through on his swing Monday night against the Texas Rangers. (Richard W. Rodriguez / Associated Press). Years ago, when I visited Shohei Ohtani ’s high school alma mater in the northern part of the Japanese mainland, baseball coach Hiroshi Sasaki mentioned Major league teams viewed him as a pitcher. As the 18-year-old Ohtani deliberated his future, the Nippon Professional Baseball team that won his draft rights offered him an alternative: to be a two - way player. This is important to note, how the idea of Ohtani playing both ways was the Nippon-Ham

Ohtani is batting .276 with 26 RBIs and a .952 OPS as the Angels' everyday designated hitter, producing elite exit velocities and cutting down on his occasional weakness for low-percentage swings.

Ohtani hit his 10th homer of the season Thursday night, surpassing his entire total in 44 games last season and tying him for the overall lead with Boston’s J.D. Martinez and Atlanta’s Ronald Acuña Jr.

He added two RBI doubles Friday night against the defending World Series champion Dodgers, thumping the ball off the Angel Stadium wall and cruising into second with his graceful, economical stride that belies his well-above-average speed on the basepaths — he was 14th in the majors in top sprint speed last week, and his six stolen bases rank among the top 10.

On the mound, Ohtani has a 100-mph fastball, a slider and a nasty curve — but he also has another pitch that's gaining a fearsome reputation. His splitter, when thrown properly, is nearly unhittable, generating 17 whiffs, five foul balls and a weak grounder on 23 swings this season.

As for Ohtani’s control, Maddon expects improvement when the right-hander who's 1-0 so far learns to manage his game-opening excitement and his late-game fatigue.

Shohei Ohtani scratched from mound start vs Tampa Bay

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“Man, once he really gains even better command of the fastball and we get him stretched out a bit, pitching on a more consistent basis, I could see him going 100 pitches strong,” Maddon said.

The ever-proliferating industry of obscure baseball statistics has a godsend in Ohtani, who is regularly accomplishing baroque feats that haven't been seen in the majors for decades — or ever.

Ohtani recently became the first player since 1900 to record 30 strikeouts and hit 10 homers in his team's first 30 games. Ohtani and Ruth are the only players in baseball history to post seasons with 30 strikeouts and 10 homers — and both did it twice, roughly 100 years apart.

Last month, Ohtani also became the first major league homers leader to make a pitching start since Ruth did it on June 13, 1921.

At one point last month, Ohtani had both thrown the hardest pitch of the season and delivered the hit with the highest exit velocity of the season.

Ohtani is hitting so well and feeling so good that Maddon is encouraging him to hit on days when he pitches, which requires relinquishing the Angels' option of a designated hitter for the entire game.

The 26-year-old Ohtani even played an inning in left field late last month, taking a defensive position in a game for the first time since 2014 back in Japan. Maddon hasn't ruled out using Ohtani in the field in the future, saying he “can do anything.”

Ohtani's own body seems to be his most formidable obstacle, given his injury history and the extraordinary strains under which he is placing it, particularly by playing every day.

Ohtani has already seen mound starts pushed back this season because of blisters on his pitching hand and soreness from getting hit by a pitch in his triceps, but he isn't yet showing signs of fatigue or serious injury.

The Angels will monitor Ohtani's every move closely and patiently, eager to see just how many more unprecedented feats he can accomplish.

“I just want to keep getting better,” Ohtani said. “It's a long season, and I have a lot of work to do.”


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Greg Beacham, The Associated Press

Naylor HR in 8th sends Indians over Trout-less Angels 6-5 .
ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — In a game that featured five home runs and included another drive by Shohei Ohtani, Josh Naylor and the Cleveland Indians won it with the last blast. Naylor hit a tiebreaking drive in the eighth inning as the Indians snapped a four-game losing streak Tuesday night with a 6-5 victory over the Los Angeles Angels. “I knew going into the inning we could change things if we could get one more on the board,” said Naylor, who went 2 for 4 for his sixth multihit game this month. “I went up there and looked for one good pitch to hit. I got one in my zone and hit it out.” Ohtani hit his major league-leading 14th home run, connecting for the third straight day.

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