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Ohtani gets second try in cleanup spot

MLB.com

ANAHEIM -- Shohei Ohtani batted in the cleanup position for just the second time in his young Major League career Friday against the Twins. The last time he did so, on April 22 against Johnny Cueto and the Giants, he went 1-for-4 with two strikeouts.

He took Albert Pujols' spot in the lineup, as Pujols sat out for rest.

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ANAHEIM -- Shohei Ohtani batted in the cleanup position for just the second time in his young Major League career Friday against the Twins. The last time he did so, on April 22 against Johnny Cueto and the Giants, he went 1-for-4 with two strikeouts.

He took Albert Pujols' spot in the lineup, as Pujols sat out for rest.

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Ohtani entered Friday with a slashline of .354/.400/.677. He has hit safely in 14 out of his 16 starts at designated hitter and went 2-for-4 with a towering homer and RBI double Thursday against the Twins.

Tropeano likely starting Saturday

Though not quite yet official, manager Mike Scioscia all but stated that Nick Tropeano will be coming off his short stint on the disabled list -- where he's been since May 2 with shoulder inflammation -- to start Saturday against the Twins.

"Everything came well out of the bullpen," Tropeano said Friday. "I'm ready to go for tomorrow if the big man calls upon me."

The big man?

"That's Scios, you know that."

Tropeano last pitched May 1, when he threw a one-hitter against the Orioles over 6 1/3 innings. He has a 3.42 ERA, 4.39 FIP and 1.14 WHIP over four starts this season.

"Nick has a variety of pitches and he uses them," Scioscia said. "When he's going well, you'll see that balance. He did a good job with it [in his last start]."

Cozart leads off, Kinsler seventh again

Zack Cozart led off, with Ian Kinsler dropping to the seventh spot, again Friday, a formula that worked to a tee -- for Kinsler, at least -- in the series opener Thursday, the first iteration of that combination so far this season. Kinsler finished the game 3-for-4 with a homer, two runs and two RBIs after having previously been mired in a 3-for-31 slump. It was his first home run outside of the leadoff position since 2015.

"Those guys bring an important part to the structure of our offense," Scioscia said. "Obviously, Ian's a guy that's hit in a lot of spots -- he's hit in RBI spots, he's led off. Same as Zack. Wherever they're going to fit in to make our lineup effective and as deep as it can be, we'll look at."

Kinsler hit behind Andrelton Simmons, who entered Friday second in batting average and seventh in on-base percentage in the AL with a slashline of .351/.410/.511. He hit safely in 13 out of his last 14 games, averaging .429 over that stretch, with two home runs and 14 RBIs.

A big factor of his success so far has been his eye at the plate, which has been at the highest level in his career -- his chase rate is more than 9 percentage points lower than any previous year. Overall, he is on pace to shatter almost all of his previous career highs offensively.

"I'm happy with the plate discipline I've shown this year," Simmons said. "I'm trying to put up numbers offensively. Can't complain with what's going on right now."

The skipper seems to agree.

"Andrelton works very hard on his offense, and I think he's getting the results," Scioscia said. "You're seeing him use the whole field, you're seeing him drive the ball. He's done everything from get bunts down for us to knock in big runs to hitting home runs. He's made some big strides on the offensive side the last couple years."

That duo of Kinsler and Simmons worked together from the six- and seven-holes to score four of the seven runs -- and produce two of the seven -- scored Thursday against the Twins. One of the other run producers Thursday, Kole Calhoun, notched his first RBI since April 23, something he had not done in 36 at-bats. Calhoun's slashline was at .161/.187/.203 entered Friday, when he again batted eighth.

"It's tough to put some things together when you know that some guys who you know are much better than they have been haven't been on their game -- Kole, Ian -- these guys are great offensive players that aren't quite there yet," Scioscia said. "When they are, it's going to give us more options to look at as we move forward."

Avery Yang is a reporter for MLB.com based in Anaheim.

Los Angeles Angels, Shohei Ohtani, Nick Tropeano