Angels general manager Perry Minasian met with the media last Saturday (April 16) in Texas to talk about some early season trends and his thoughts on how the club had been performing early in the year.
I was curious what he thought about Shohei Ohtani's performance on the mound to that point, as the righty was 0-2 with a 7.56 ERA through his first two starts. Ohtani, the reigning American League MVP, had uncharacteristically struggled against the Rangers on April 14, allowing six runs over 3 2/3 innings and was hurt by a grand slam in the second from Texas catcher Jonah Heim.
But Minasian immediately disagreed with the assessment that Ohtani had been scuffling on the mound, pointing to the fact the ace had struck out 14 in 8 1/3 innings over those first two starts, and his velocity indicated he was just fine physically. Minasian blamed it on one bad inning and said he wasn’t worried about Ohtani on the mound, not at all.
Minasian proved to be correct in that assertion, as Ohtani turned in one of the best outings of his career in Houston on Wednesday against the Astros. The two-way star flirted with a perfect game and ended up allowing one hit and one walk over six scoreless frames, tallying 12 strikeouts to get his first win of the year. He also went 2-for-4 at the plate with a double and a walk.
“He was at his best,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said after the game. “I think he just had enough of Houston giving him a hard time, and he wanted to go out there and do something about it, both on the mound and at the plate.”
Maddon added on Friday that he would have left Ohtani in the game to try for a perfecto if he hadn’t allowed a one-out single to Jason Castro in the sixth. Ohtani threw 81 pitches, but Maddon said he would have let Ohtani throw up to 125 pitches if he had a perfect game going.
The skipper also said he still hasn’t found a day off for Ohtani at the plate just yet, but he could get one during the Angels' current stretch of 20 straight games without a day off that began on Friday. Ohtani's next mound start is set to come on Wednesday against the Guardians at Angel Stadium.
“Whatever he needs, he’s going to get, but I haven’t spoken to him specifically yet about what day he wants off,” Maddon said. “It may be necessary in that stretch of 20 games. It’ll be a conversation.”