ANAHEIM -- Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani did something he’d never done in the Majors before on Saturday, as he was in the lineup against the White Sox the day before his scheduled start on the mound tonight. Ohtani is also slated to be in the lineup again, marking the first time he’ll hit on the same day he pitches in the big leagues.
In the past, Ohtani had used the day before and the day after his starts to rest. But the Angels and Ohtani are being more aggressive this year. He told manager Joe Maddon he wants to be in the lineup on Sunday and could even be in the again lineup on Monday, if he feels fine coming out of his start.
"From the beginning of Spring Training we've been talking about when I was going to play, and it's pretty much up to how I'm feeling the day before and the day after," Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. "So far, I've been feeling good, so that's why I'm in the lineup."
Ohtani went 1-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts and is batting .154 in the Angels' first three games. He also stole his first base of the season in a 5-3 victory.
Ohtani dealt with a blister on his right middle finger during his last spring start against the Dodgers on Monday. But Ohtani, who also had blister issues during his rookie year in 2018, doesn’t believe it’ll be a problem going forward.
“I went through a full bullpen session with no issues,” Ohtani said. “So, I think we’re fine there.”
Ohtani’s decision to potentially be in the lineup the day before, the day of and the day after his starts isn’t new for him, however, as it’s something he did while playing in Japan. He’s maintained that he prefers to be in the lineup on the same day he pitches and did it twice in Spring Training, against the Padres and Dodgers.
It’s still a rare event historically in the Majors, as only two players have hit for themselves with the designated hitter available since Ken Brett did it twice in 1976. Andy Sonnanstine hit for himself in 2009 because of a mistake on the lineup card, while Madison Bumgarner batted for himself in an Interleague start against the A’s in 2016. The danger is if Ohtani has a short start, the club would lose him as the DH for the rest of the game.
"One of the reasons why [I like it] is because if I can help my own cause and score some runs for myself, it's going to lead to confidence,” Ohtani said. “I'll be able to attack the hitters more and be less passive."
Maddon said the key with Ohtani is communication this season, and that he trusts him to let him know when he’s feeling good and ready to be in the lineup and when he needs a break. He also indicated Ohtani will be limited to 80-90 pitches in his first start of the year.
"To me, it's up to him," Maddon said of Ohtani's playing time at DH. "When I spoke with him in the preseason in Arizona, he was very precise in regards to what he wants, when he thinks he's going to want to do it and when he's not. And a big part of that is just how well rested he feels. I think maybe being that it's the early part of this season, he feels pretty well rested. Every time he goes through the rotation, we will communicate to try to figure out what he needs in regards to rest, and then we'll make our schedule accordingly."
• Right-hander Félix Peña is progressing well with his right hamstring strain, as he’s been able to run without any issues and has been throwing long toss. He’s scheduled to throw his first bullpen session as early as next week.
• Infielder Franklin Barreto remains sidelined with a right elbow strain and still will be kept from throwing for the next four weeks. Barreto was placed on the 60-day injured list to start the season.
• White Sox closer Liam Hendriks quipped on Saturday that he’s going to be famous in Japan for the next month or so after serving up a two-run homer to Ohtani on Friday that traveled a projected 421 feet to right field. Maddon laughed when told of it, and said the homer will be “on a loop for a bit” on Japanese TV.