Kershaw freezes Ohtani, talks some smack

March 7th, 2018

TEMPE, Ariz. -- If succeeds as a Major League hitter, he'll mostly face pitchers who don't come with a resume that includes three Cy Young Awards, a Most Valuable Player Award and seven All-Star selections.

But Dodgers ace did give the two-way player another gentle reminder in Wednesday's 4-2 win over the Angels that hitting big league pitching isn't going to be easy.

Wednesday's Cactus League matchup likely would have drawn a healthy crowd even if it didn't feature two of the most hyped players in baseball, so maybe the Kershaw-Ohtani faceoff in the third inning could be considered a mere bonus for the 5,650 in attendance at Tempe Diablo Stadium.

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The Dodgers were among the finalists to acquire Ohtani, who became the most coveted free agent this offseason after being posted by Japan's Nippon-Ham Fighters.

"I could care less now," Kershaw said when asked if he was excited to face Ohtani. "He didn't pick us. Good luck to him."

The result of that Ohtani-Kershaw confrontation could be construed two ways, depending on allegiance. Dodgers fans may argue Ohtani was completely overmatched by Kershaw's signature devastating curveball. Angels fans may say Ohtani wisely didn't swing at a pitch most hitters wouldn't be able to do anything with anyway.

Ichiro wants to pitch to Ohtani this season

Either perspective leads to the same conclusion -- after working a 2-2 count, Ohtani struck out looking at a called strike three, marking the first out of the inning.

"I don't know if I'll be able to hit it the next time he throws to me, but I was kind of expecting it with two strikes," Ohtani said. "I thought it was kind of low so I decided to take it. Next time I'll try to at least foul it off."

Kershaw said he went to the curveball for a counterbalance effect.

"I fell behind him, 2-0, had to throw two fastballs that he fouled off," Kershaw said. "So, I had to throw four straight fastballs and felt I had to throw something a little slower."

Ohtani, fielding several questions about that one pitch, had a balanced perspective -- he understood the attention that comes with facing one of the game's premier pitchers, while also mindful that this was not the regular season.

"I've been watching Kershaw pitch on TV a lot, but of course, if felt a lot different actually, standing at the plate against him," Ohtani said. "It is still Spring Training games, but it was somewhat of a special moment to be able to face Kershaw."

Ohtani began his day by throwing a scheduled bullpen in advance of his anticipated Friday start against the Tijuana Toros of the Mexican League. He served as the designated hitter against the Dodgers, seeking to pick up the pace on what has been a slow offensive start to the spring season.

In addition to the strikeout, Ohtani grounded into a double play in the fourth. So far, Ohtani has one hit in Cactus League play.

"It looked like he was seeing the ball well," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "The one [Kershaw] pitch was borderline. Shohei looks like he's starting to see the ball. As he gets more at-bats, he'll get more comfortable."