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Ohtani still considers Ichiro his idol

Angels star gets emotional discussing retirement of Japanese legend
@RhettBollinger
March 21, 2019

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani grew up idolizing Ichiro Suzuki, so he said it was emotional to see him officially retire after the Mariners’ win over the A’s in Japan early Thursday.

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani grew up idolizing Ichiro Suzuki, so he said it was emotional to see him officially retire after the Mariners’ win over the A’s in Japan early Thursday.

Ohtani, the reigning AL Rookie of the Year, said he didn’t stay up to watch the game like he did the night before, but he woke up to see the news about Ichiro’s retirement after a 19-year career and watched the video of him coming off the field for the final time.

“I saw highlight footage on the internet right when I woke up,” Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. “I still can’t believe it.”

Ohtani, 24, was 7 years old when Ichiro had his memorable rookie season with the Mariners in 2001 that saw him win both the American League Rookie of the Year Award and the MVP Award. Ohtani followed Ichiro's career closely growing up and said he wanted to be just like him.

“He was always someone that was my goal [to emulate],” Ohtani said. “That’s not going to change. I won’t be able to see him play anymore, but I’ll always have the memories of him playing. He’s somebody people in my generation look up to a lot.”

Ohtani said he’ll always remember Ichiro meeting with him to give him hitting advice last Spring Training, and he hopes to reach out to him in person to congratulate him on his retirement.

“I was very honored and very thankful that he reached out and gave me advice last year,” Ohtani said. “It’s really hard for someone like that, such a superstar, to give me advice like that.”

According to Japanese media reports, Ichiro mentioned Ohtani during his retirement speech, saying he’s confident Ohtani will be a star. Ohtani won’t pitch this season after undergoing Tommy John surgery on Oct. 1, but he is on track to return as a designated hitter in May.

“Shohei needs to be the world’s greatest player,” Ichiro said. “There aren’t other players in the world like him with his size and quickness.”

Angels first baseman Albert Pujols, who was the National League Rookie of the Year in 2001, also had nothing but good things to say about Ichiro, who broke into the Majors the same year.

“Obviously, a great career, a future Hall of Famer,” Pujols said. “It's really amazing what he was able to accomplish not just in Japan but also here at this level in the big leagues. I'm honored to say that I came up around the same time and we both won Rookie of the Year. It's an amazing, amazing career. I'm really happy for him."

Trout delivers RBI single

Center fielder Mike Trout, playing in his first Cactus League game since signing his 12-year, $426.5 million extension that became official Wednesday night, smacked an RBI single in his second at-bat and went 1-for-4 in the Angels' 2-1 win over the D-backs on Thursday at Salt River Fields. Trout also played all nine innings in center field.

“He made all that money, he needs to play nine,” manager Brad Ausmus said with a laugh. “But that will be it for Spring Training. He won’t play nine again until the regular season. If he plays tomorrow, it would be five or six.”

Eppler: Trout at 'home'

Cole to start on injured list

Reliever Taylor Cole has been dealing with a sore right shoulder and will open the year on the injured list, Ausmus said. It isn’t considered serious, however, as Cole has resumed throwing but has yet to get back on a mound.

Injury updates

Right-hander Nick Tropeano, who has been dealing with a shoulder strain this spring, threw off a mound for the first time on Wednesday and said everything went well. He threw only fastballs and will throw another bullpen session on Saturday.

“Everything felt good,” Tropeano said. “My timing was a little off. But I’m really just worried about how I felt, and I came out of it pretty well.”

Outfielder Jarrett Parker has also been out since Friday with an oblique strain. He’s not likely to make the roster, with Peter Bourjos the favorite to win the fourth outfielder’s job.

Up next

The Angels have split-squad action on Friday. Right-hander Trevor Cahill will start the home game against the White Sox at 1:10 p.m. PT, while lefty Dillon Peters gets the nod in the road game vs. the Mariners in Peoria at 6:40 p.m. PT. It’s the final start of the spring for Cahill, who will be the club’s Opening Day starter against the A’s on Thursday in Oakland. Peters will open the year at Triple-A Salt Lake and gives the Angels rotation depth.

Rhett Bollinger covers the Angels for MLB.com. He previously covered the Twins from 2011-18. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.