OAKLAND (AP) — The world, the baseball world at the very least, will be watching two-way star Shohei Ohtani as the Angels begin their season today with one of the game’s brightest young phenomenons.
When will he get that first plate appearance? It’s likely to be one of the first three games, but might that be as soon as opening day? How about his first major league hit? When will he strike out a batter and generate statistics as both a batter and pitcher?
Much of that is up to manager Mike Scioscia and his plan for someone he has called an “extraordinary” talent.
“He’s got all eyes on him right now,” teammate Kole Calhoun said. “Somebody that’s completely talented and fun to watch play. I’m excited to see how it plays out. He definitely has all the talent in the world.”
What a special moment — and certainly a spectacle, too — it should be when Ohtani makes his major league debut as a two-way sensation for Los Angeles.
“Shohei’s talent is real and obviously we believe in it,” Scioscia said. “We anticipate him being both ready to pitch and hit when the season starts. And we’re going to work hard to reach that goal from now until we start the season.”
Garrett Richards, plagued by injuries the past two seasons , gets the ball for the Angels in Thursday’s opener against the A’s. Kendall Graveman makes his second straight opening day start for Oakland.
The Angels won the Ohtani sweepstakes against a handful of other teams the 23-year-old had considered joining, and the ever-smiling 23-year-old has seem unfazed by the fanfare and hype that surrounds his every move, swing, warmup toss and pitch.
Ohtani is slated to make his first career pitching start in Sunday’s finale of the season-opening four-game set. He might be in the lineup as designated hitter before that.
“It’ll also be interesting to see what kind of look we get out of him, because we play them to open the season a four-game series, so we’re going to get him one of those games,” A’s manager Bob Melvin said during spring training. “It’ll be interesting. I know there’s a focus on it because this just hasn’t been done. My guess is in coming years this might not be the last guy to do that based on the athleticism it seems like with kids these days. But it’s the first, so we’ll see how that works.”
Melvin said the A’s weren’t allowed to video Ohtani’s Cactus League games, meaning some video study of Ohtani from games in Japan might be necessary at this early stage.
Dustin Fowler won’t be making his second big league “debut” just yet. Fowler, who was optioned to Triple-A Nashville on Wednesday, had been the A’s hope to start in center field after they traded Sonny Gray to the Yankees to get him. Fowler’s first game for New York last year ended after a half-inning and no plate appearances because of a gruesome knee injury that required surgery.
Now that the games will count at last, Scioscia is eager to see what Ohtani can do.
“He has an internal mechanism of competing that you can feel. He wants to be good. He wants to do what he can do to go out there and help our team,” Scioscia said. “That’s very real. But I think he also understands that there’s a process of what you need to do. There’s things that he needs to do going along getting ready for the season. He’s confident that he’ll get there and we’re very confident he’ll get there.”