SI’s Ben Reiter says Shohei Ohtani can account for enough wins to make the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim a true contender. Time_Sports
The “Babe Ruth of Japan” is here.
Later today, the Los Angeles Angels will introduce their new two-way star, Shohei Ohtani, during a news conference in Tempe that is expected to draw more than 100 journalists from around the world.
That’s because Ohtani is set to try something that hasn’t been done with any real regularity in almost 100 years – be a starting pitcher and a regular hitter in the major leagues. The 23-year-old starred as a right-handed ace and a left-handed slugger for the Nippon-Ham Fighters and, in addition to his fastball regularly hitting 100 mph, he’s been known to smash home runs out of stadiums.
In 2016, his last full season in Japan, Ohtani recorded 174 strikeouts in 140 innings while also hitting .322 with 22 homers. Six other Cactus League teams were finalists in the chase for Ohtani – the Mariners, Giants, Cubs, Dodgers, Rangers and Padres – before the Angels won the rights for his services in December.
The Angels are banking on Ohtani helping them reverse their recent history; they’ve missed the playoffs in seven of the past eight seasons.
One thing has already been cleared up as to how the Angels plan to ease Ohtani into his MLB debut season. It’s going to start, manager Mike Scioscia said, with Ohtani being a pitcher first and a hitter second. For him to do both, Ohtani will be part of a six-man starting rotation.
“He’s going to get most looks as a pitcher,” Scioscia told reporters on Tuesday. “If he can pitch to his capabilities, that will always influence your team more than what he would do hitting. But that’s not to say he won’t have a chance to be a difference-maker on the offensive end, too.
“There’s a certain novelty to it. You’ve had Madison Bumgarner swing the bat with the Giants, but not like we’re trying to implement with Shohei. I don’t think it’s going to be that big of an issue. We need him to pitch. He’s a big part of our rotation. Secondary to that, when he has an opportunity to swing the bat, we definitely want to take a look at him.”
Ohtani has expressed a desire to be an everyday outfielder in addition to his role as a starting pitcher, although it’s expected the Angels will use him almost solely as a designated hitter when they let him bat.
Azcentral sports will be attending Ohtani’s news conference and will provide live updates and analysis from the scene.
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