Ohtani electric, erratic in Spring Training debut
Righty shows diverse repertoire, including 69-mph curve, vs. Brewers
TEMPE, Ariz. -- It wasn't perfect, but it was a start. Two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani allowed two runs (one unearned) over 1 1/3 innings in the Angels' 6-5 win over the Brewers on Saturday at Tempe Diablo Stadium, marking his first outing in a Major League setting after spending the past five seasons starring in Japan.
Ohtani gave up two hits, including a home run to Keon Broxton to lead off the second inning, while striking out two, walking one and throwing 31 pitches in his Cactus League debut. The 23-year-old right-hander battled command issues but also showed flashes of his impressive arsenal, with a fastball that topped out at 97 mph and some nasty secondary pitches, including a 69-mph curveball.
"To get him out there the first time was great," manager Mike Scioscia said. "He threw all his pitches. Some were really what we would expect them to be, and some he just lost his release point on. But it's a step forward, for sure."
Ohtani has been the center of attention at Angels camp for the last two weeks and has sparked heightened coverage as he attempts to become both an impact pitcher and hitter in the Majors. Nearly 100 media members were on hand to watch his highly anticipated debut, though Ohtani has seemed relatively unaffected by the intensity of the spotlight.
"Honestly, I didn't feel a lot of nervousness," Ohtani said via interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. "I felt like I was pitching in Japan again. But it's the beginning of the year, first game of the year, and obviously I'm not at 100 percent. I'm still going to try and work my way up there."
In the first inning, Ohtani gave up a leadoff double to Jonathan Villar, who opened the game by lifting a 3-1 pitch over the head of center fielder Eric Young Ohtani then struck out Nate Orf swinging before walking Ji-Man Choi to put runners on first and second.
The Brewers scored their first run of the game after Villar advanced to third on a wild pitch, then scored on a throwing error by catcher Martin Maldonado, but Ohtani stranded Choi at third by striking out Brett Phillips looking to end the inning.
"Fastball, he might have to locate a little better, just because today it was a little flatter," Phillips said. "But it was coming out good. Offspeed looked really good. He definitely has a chance to be really good. I got to see it all."
After the Angels scored twice in the bottom of the first to take a 2-1 lead, Ohtani returned to the mound for the second inning, but he threw a fastball down the middle to Broxton, who crushed it to left field for a game-tying homer. Ohtani then capped his outing by inducing a flyout to left field from Nick Franklin.
Ohtani, who had been scheduled to throw two innings, said he thought the long break in between innings might have adversely affected his performance. In Japan, pitchers are allowed to start playing catch in front of the dugout with two outs, so Ohtani said he must adjust to pitching without that routine.
"Today our offense was kind of out there for a while, so my body was getting cold," Ohtani said. "I did kind of struggle to start the second inning, so that was a good learning experience for me."
The Angels have not yet announced when Ohtani will make his debut in the Angels' lineup, though Scioscia said it will be "early next week." Ohtani will not hit the day after he pitches, so the earliest he could bat in a Cactus League game would be Monday against the Padres in Peoria.