LOS ANGELES -- If Angels newcomer Shohei Ohtani is able to overcome his shaky spring and have a solid first season in Southern California, fellow Japan native Kenta Maeda could be part of the reason.The Dodgers' right-hander reached out with text messages once Ohtani signed with the Angels in early
LOS ANGELES -- If Angels newcomer Shohei Ohtani is able to overcome his shaky spring and have a solid first season in Southern California, fellow Japan native Kenta Maeda could be part of the reason.
The Dodgers' right-hander reached out with text messages once Ohtani signed with the Angels in early December, offering congratulations, encouragement and a resource on life in the Major Leagues and what to expect upon arrival in California.
Although both the Angels and Dodgers called Arizona home for Spring Training, Maeda and Ohtani did not say hello to each other in person until Sunday evening at Angel Stadium. The players exchanged quick pleasantries before Maeda retreated to the Dodgers' clubhouse to prepare for his final spring start.
"Definitely as a fellow Japanese player, he's a really good pitcher and obviously a really good hitter, so I'm really looking forward to seeing that," Maeda said through an interpreter.
Like Ohtani, Maeda was a top pitcher in Japan before coming to the United States. But the Angels' right-hander is even more highly regarded for his mound presence. This spring was anything but smooth, though.
Ohtani had a 27.00 ERA in two Cactus League starts and made other appearances in Minor League or intrasquad games. The Angels sounded pleased with Ohtani's efforts in an 85-pitch intrasquad game Saturday. When he makes his first start remains to be seen.
Offensively, Ohtani was 3-for-28 (.107) at the plate, before going 1-for-4 as the designated hitter in Monday night's 4-1 win over the Dodgers. He singled to left field against starter Rich Hill in the fourth inning.
"I'm sure he will be fine," Maeda said. "He will make the adjustments he needs and he will be OK."
One of those early adjustments came Monday when Ohtani used a toe tap while batting and landed his front foot a little earlier on his swing to help his timing.
"Even in my days in Japan I tried to make small adjustments throughout the season," Ohtani said after the game through an interpreter. "That's what I'm doing right now, trying to find out the best way to find my timing."
Heaney making progress
Left-hander Andrew Heaney (elbow inflammation) will begin throwing from 120 feet Tuesday as he continues to progress from his injury. He will also throw from a mound, although not at full speed.
"[Tuesday's) bullpen, while it won't be full [speed], it will me more of getting out there and getting used to the hill again," manager Mike Scioscia said. "Every time he goes out there, it gives us more information about where he is, so we'll keep our fingers crossed."
The Angels believe that Heaney could return at some point in April.
Bring on the A's
Right-hander Matthew Shoemaker showed he is ready for the regular season, giving up just two hits over four scoreless innings Monday night with five strikeouts and one walk. Shoemaker is expected to make his regular-season debut this weekend at Oakland, although Scioscia has not made his starting assignments official beyond the first two games.
Earlier Monday, Scioscia said that right-hander Garrett Richards will be his Opening Day starter Thursday against the A's, while left-hander Tyler Skaggs will pitch in the second game.
The Angels might have to utilize Jose Pujols' glove at first base more than in the recent past, but that doesn't mean that defense is being overlooked. Case in point was the second inning Monday.
The Dodgers' Cody Bellinger ripped an extra-base hit to right field and began to flash his speed. But right fielder Kole Calhoun hit shortstop Andrelton Simmons with the throw and the relay was a perfect strike to third baseman Jefry Marte to retire Bellinger after a head-first dive.
"Right now, we're happy with our defensive club and we think it will be important for us and our pitchers," Scioscia said. "As the season goes on, you'll see it really becoming a big part of us holding leads and winning games."
Right-hander JC Ramirez will take the mound for the Angels against Dodgers left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu in the final exhibition game for both teams. First pitch from Dodger Stadium is 7:10 p.m. PT. The game will be available on MLB.TV.
Doug Padilla is a contributor to MLB.com.