The microscope promises to remain focused on Shohei Ohtani throughout his first season in the major leagues.
That was evident from the Japanese two-way player’s first day of spring training in Tempe, Ariz., as a member of the Los Angeles Angels.
Photographers followed his every move — whether he was throwing lightly in the outfield or taking one of his 37 batting practice swings — and he later faced questions at a press conference with more than 100 journalists.
But all the expectations and all the pressure matter little to the 23-year-old, who plans to be both a pitcher and outfielder for the Angels.
“Honestly, from my days in Japan, I haven’t ever felt that pressure that everybody is talking about,” Ohtani said through his interpreter. “I just want to go out there and do my job and help the team win. That’s my No. 1 goal, to help the team win and make the fans happy by me playing my hardest and that’s the best possible scenario.”
Ohtani bats left-handed and throws right and chose the Angels after considering more than a half-dozen franchises.
He went 42-15 with a 2.52 ERA and batted .286 with 48 homers over five seasons in Japan.
The possibility of playing at a high level in the majors as a two-way player has helped create the frenzy, but Angels manager Mike Scioscia indicated earlier this week that he sees Ohtani as a pitcher first and foremost.
Scioscia then announced a six-man rotation to keep Ohtani on the schedule he was used to in Japan.
“He’s probably going to influence our team more as a pitcher,” Scioscia told reporters, “but that’s not to say he’s not going to have a chance to make a difference on the offensive end, too.”
Ohtani wasn’t fazed with Scioscia’s preference.
“First of all, he always tells me he wants me to enjoy the game,” Ohtani said. “That’s the first thing he wants me to think about. … We will be communicating and he is willing to listen on what I have to say and I will have some input on my role.”
–Field Level Media