As a person or player involved in a professional sport, it’s hard to pull yourself away from the game and objectively enjoy witnessing the talents of your opponents. But with someone like Shohei Ohtani, he makes it easy for anyone to be in awe of his skills as a pitcher and a hitter.
“I just think about all the fun he's probably having, showing up to the field every day, being able to play somewhere, on the mound or in the field or in the lineup,” Indians starter Zach Plesac said. “I'm sure he's having a lot of fun. It's amazing to see the things he's been able to accomplish on the mound and on the field. It's just awesome. I'm excited to watch him play, and I'm excited to face up with him.”
Plesac will toe the rubber on Tuesday night in Anaheim. On Monday, he’ll have a front row seat to watch Ohtani step in the box. Just the thought of having the opportunity to witness Ohtani seamlessly pull off the two-way player role, assuming he makes his start on Wednesday, forced Plesac to reminisce on how much he misses doing the same in college.
“You look at a guy like Ohtani and you can see it's possible,” Plesac said. “There was a time in the Minor Leagues when I told [now assistant pitching coach Ruben Niebla] that I wanted to play the field. He just let me know, 'Pitching's the route for you, this is your gift.' But yeah, at the end of the day, it's just a lot of fun. It'd be a lot of fun to show up to the field and play both sides. It's just the game of baseball. It's fun to play in general. As much as you can get on the field, you love to.”
Ohtani entered Monday tied for the most homers in the Majors (12), while also boasting a 2.10 ERA with 40 strikeouts in 25 2/3 innings (five starts). The Indians were last in Anaheim in 2019, when Ohtani was out with an elbow injury. And as much as the team hopes he cools down while it’s in town, it’s impossible for anyone not to appreciate the skill set Ohtani brings to the table.
“You know, he's an incredible athlete,” manager Terry Francona said. “Generational, I think, is a good word. I mean, this guy is a pretty amazing athlete. And to be able to do what he's doing at this level, it's pretty amazing.”
“I mean, really, when you think about generational talent, he’s a generational talent,” Cleveland's president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said. “There are not players or athletes in a world that can do the things he can do on both sides of the ball, and to do it at such a high level is really extraordinary and unique. So, I would treasure the opportunities we continue to get to watch him play and compete.”
Plesac remembers last start in Anaheim
Speaking of the last time the Indians were in Anaheim, Plesac remembers that trip quite fondly. Of his 37 career starts, his one shutout came at Angel Stadium. On Sept. 10, 2019, Plesac allowed just four hits, two walks and struck out five, leading Cleveland took an 8-0 victory.
“I’m obviously excited to be out here in some warmer weather,” Plesac said. “It's been chilly where we've been moving around. Last time I was here, it was a pretty good one. Hoping to build off of that and just continue to put this team in position to win a ballgame.”
Chang trying to stay sharp
There’s nothing more difficult than attempting to get hot at the plate when you’re not an everyday player, and infielder Yu Chang has certainly had his struggles offensively so far this season, hitting .137 (7-for-51) with a .362 OPS in his first 23 games. Maybe this will prompt the club to call up infielder Owen Miller, who has been raking in Triple-A -- but that doesn’t mean the team has lost hope in Chang’s future.
“He does a really good job of staying ready,” Francona said. “He takes balls at all four infield positions every day. He’s in great shape. We’re trying to win every game we can and he’s had such a hard time, I don’t doubt that -- things usually have a way of working where a guy will get another chance and can hopefully take advantage of it. I think there’s a hitter in there. … He might be our most technically sound hitter. It’s just not showing up in the games and that’s kind of why we’re here.”