Ohtani to slug -- but not pitch -- in All-Star Game

July 18th, 2022

won’t be a two-way player for Tuesday night’s All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium.

The Angels superstar revealed that news during his All-Star availability on Monday, saying that he does not plan to pitch in the Midsummer Classic. Instead, Ohtani wants to be ready to start for the Halos on Friday, when the club opens its second-half schedule at Atlanta. Last year, Ohtani didn’t return to the mound until the fourth game after the break, during which he participated in the Home Run Derby, started the All-Star Game on the mound and served as the American League's leadoff hitter. 

"I'm pitching the first game out of the All-Star break, so I'd only have two days in between,” Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. “I obviously prioritize the season over the All-Star Game."

Of course, Ohtani will still be heavily involved in Tuesday’s festivities. After winning the fan vote to start as the American League designated hitter, he will bat leadoff against NL starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw. The Yankees’ Aaron Judge and the Red Sox’s Rafael Devers -- two of Ohtani’s prime competitors for the AL MVP Award -- will slot in behind him in manager Dusty Baker’s lineup.

Ohtani, who is 0-for-8 in his career against Kershaw, said he’s excited to face the veteran lefty, especially with the game at Dodger Stadium. 

“He’s been someone I’ve been watching since high school,” Ohtani said. “It’s amazing how long he’s been at the top of his game. It’s going to be a big moment for him pitching at Dodger Stadium. So I’m just going to try to enjoy it.” 

Kershaw, who is starting the All-Star Game for the first time in his career, also had nothing but praise for Ohtani, who is likely to get two at-bats in the game. 

"Shohei is pretty incredible," Kershaw said. "I just try to pitch, let alone try to hit every once in a while back in the day. What he's able to do is incredible. It's really great for the game of baseball. Having somebody like that to be able to excel at both of those the way he does is incredible. It's fun to watch, too, as a fan of the game."

In last year’s All-Star Game at Coors Field, Ohtani both led off and started on the mound. He pitched one perfect inning and was credited with the win in the AL’s 5-2 victory, while going 0-for-2 at the plate. He also participated in the Home Run Derby, losing in a swing-off to Washington’s Juan Soto in the first round. But Ohtani declined an invite to the Derby this year.

“There’s nobody that I trust more that knows their body [than Ohtani], and he just feels this is the best thing for him,” said Angels interim manager Phil Nevin. “He’ll get a couple of at-bats in the game. But the Derby takes a lot out of you. There are guys that handle it every year and love doing it, and I know he had a great time last year, but I think he understood the toll it took on his body, and he didn’t want to go through that when we come back.” 

Ohtani certainly looked to be a contender to start back-to-back All-Star Games as a pitcher. The right-hander is 9-4 with a 2.38 ERA and 123 strikeouts in 15 starts this year, but he has been especially dominant of late. In six starts since June 9, Ohtani has allowed only two earned runs in 39 2/3 innings (0.45 ERA), with 58 strikeouts and a .382 opponent OPS.

However, it will be Rays left-hander who will take the ball instead for the AL on Tuesday. Baker confirmed that Ohtani was a candidate to start but that ultimately he was told that Ohtani didn’t want to pitch. 

"There was consideration," Baker said. "But the information that we received from Ohtani's camp was that he probably shouldn't or wouldn't start, and so then that's why we chose Shane.”