On Saturday, ballyhooed Japanese two-way prospect Shohei Ohtani made his Spring Training debut as a pitcher for the Angels versus the Milwaukee Brewers. This may have been the most anticipated Spring Training debut for any player this season. However, Ohtani failed to live up to expectations, giving up two hits and two runs, one unearned, in 1-1/3 innings. Having already heard the manager’s plan for him was 2 innings and 30 pitches, I was quite surprised to see him sent back out to the mound in the second inning when he threw 26 pitches during a wild 1st inning. After heading out to pitch in the Brewers’ half of the 2nd, Ohtani promptly gave up a homer to leadoff hitter Keon Broxton and was then removed from the game.
It wasn’t all bad for Ohtani, as he showed off his splitter and a nice slow curveball, striking out two Brewers hitters.
Hopefully, he will do better in his debut at DH. If his struggles on the mound carry over to the regular season, the Angels are apparently planning on a 6-man rotation at present and would be able to delete him without having to scramble to find another starter, but this would leave them without a star pitcher. A move to the pen would be less than optimal for the Angels, as it would probably make using him in the two-way role more difficult since I assume his starts at DH would have to be coordinated with days he would not be available to pitch.
Since we have a pretty small sample size at this point and Ohtani is a young player adapting to a new league, we can’t read too much into this performance, but since the Angels have pinned a lot of their hopes onto him and don’t really have any other top-level starters, it will be interesting to see what they do if he doesn’t pan out as expected.
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