Ohtani's 1st spring start bumped up to Tuesday

February 23rd, 2023

TEMPE, Ariz. -- In a slight change from the original plan, two-way superstar will make his first Cactus League start on Tuesday against the A’s in Mesa instead of on Wednesday against the Brewers in Tempe.

Ohtani, who threw a live bullpen session without any issues on Wednesday, is making the change to get an extra day of rest before he travels to Tokyo to join Team Japan for the World Baseball Classic. He’s scheduled to face hitters one more time this weekend ahead of his start against Oakland and also served as designated hitter on Sunday and Monday ahead of his outing.

“It just works out best with his schedule to get back [to Japan] for the WBC,” manager Phil Nevin said. “It’s best for him. He came to us and said he wants to go that day. He feels fine.”

Ohtani, the 2021 AL MVP and two-time All-Star, was slated to face hitters on Tuesday but saw it get pushed back a day due to rainy conditions. Ohtani instead pitched on a windy day in Tempe on Wednesday, facing hitters Livan Soto, José Godoy, Jeremiah Jackson and Kevin Padlo.

Ohtani treated it like a two-inning simulated game and sat down in the dugout for about five minutes after his first throwing session against hitters. He came away pleased with the way it went, as he was able to throw all of his pitches and received positive feedback from the devices that record his pitch data.

“I felt pretty good overall,” Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. “I saw the metrics and I was satisfied. There were some factors such as the wind, and I had to deal with that. But other than that, I have one more game remaining before I head out, so hopefully I can ramp it up a little more.”

The Angels and Ohtani have mapped out his potential starts with Team Japan, as they want him to get built up to be ready to start on Opening Day against the A’s in Oakland on March 30. But they’ve yet to officially announce which game Ohtani will start for Japan.

Ohtani could be away from Angels camp until as late as March 22, depending on how Team Japan fares in the Classic. But the Angels remain confident that he’ll be ready for the regular season, as he’ll get the chance to be a two-way player with Team Japan, and the Angels will be in communication with both Ohtani and Team Japan.

“From our standpoint, I expect him to hit and pitch like he’s done here, and it’s something he’s scheduled to do and something we look forward to seeing,” general manager Perry Minasian said. “I trust our players. They know what they need to do to be productive.”