Scioscia: Ohtani 'very close' to turnaround

Top prospect has shown flashes of promise but far from finished product

March 17th, 2018

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Despite his disastrous start on the mound Friday, the Angels continue to believe that is close to turning a corner in what has been an underwhelming spring.

After being shelled for seven runs over 1 1/3 innings against the Rockies, Ohtani did not take the field with the rest of the team on Saturday and instead remained inside to review video of the outing with pitching coach Charles Nagy.

"It's not outside the realm of what we do with other pitchers," manager Mike Scioscia said. "It happens. It's part of how we try to get concepts across to pitchers."

While Ohtani has shown flashes of his tantalizing promise, it's also clear that the 23-year-old two-way phenom remains far from a finished product. In four pitching appearances this spring, including two Minor League starts, Ohtani has surrendered 17 runs (15 earned) on 18 hits over 8 1/3 innings, yielding a 16.20 ERA. He has also struck out 19 and walked three. As a left-handed hitter, Ohtani is 2-for-20 with seven strikeouts and three walks in eight Cactus League games.

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Ohtani's struggles in both disciplines have prompted many to wonder if he'll end up opening the season in the Minors, an outcome that felt unimaginable a month ago. But Scioscia has sidestepped questions about Ohtani's roster status and stressed that the Angels are evaluating Ohtani through a different lens than the rest of the world, focusing less on traditional statistics like ERA and more on factors like pitch execution, spin rate and process.

"I think Shohei is very close," Scioscia said. "You saw the stuff there, especially getting out of that first inning. There are some things he's very close on and is working on. We're paying a lot of attention this week to getting him to where he needs to be. He works very hard. When he gets back out there, hopefully we'll get the results that he's looking for."

Ohtani is scheduled to bat in Sunday's Cactus League game against the Rangers (watch live on MLB.TV), but his next start on the mound won't come until Thursday at the earliest.

Scioscia acknowledged that Ohtani's next outing could come in a Minor League game, as the Angels need to ensure that he gets his pitch count up to 90 before the start of the season. Ohtani departed after throwing only 50 pitches on Friday, though he went three more simulated innings in the bullpen to continue to build up his stamina.

"We're obviously sitting on a lot of things," Scioscia said. "That's one of them."