Ohtani worked hard to improve his mechanics at the plate this offseason, trying to keep his back foot planted as he swings. Ohtani got away from that last year, as he was still experiencing some weakness in his left knee after surgery in October of 2019. His swing looked much better in the Angels’ Cactus League home opener, and he came away pleased with the results despite popping up with the bases loaded and nobody out in the fourth inning in his final at-bat.
“I think I’m able to make good swings right now,” Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. “I saw some pitches, and everything is where it should be. I feel good right now. … I feel like I’m making good contact for the most part. There are just some little tweaks I have to make. I get a little jammed sometimes so little things like that, but for the most part, I’m feeling good.”
Ohtani, 26, is scheduled to make his first start on the mound later this week on Thursday or Friday. He’s focusing more on pitching than hitting right now, as they want to get him fully built up as a starting pitcher, but he will still see plenty of action as a designated hitter this spring.
“I’m glad to get this first game out of the way,” Ohtani said. “I’ve been facing live pitching since before spring even started. So, I think everything is going to plan.”
Angels manager Joe Maddon said that Ohtani’s swing looks better than at any point last year because his balance has improved with better mechanics.
“We’ve been seeing it all camp with that good balance and the ball coming off hot,” Maddon said. “He’s working good at-bats. The hitting coaches are very happy right now and so is Shohei. I know it can continue. He looks so much better than he did at really any point last year.”
Cobb showing improved velocity
Right-hander Alex Cobb made his first start of the spring, throwing a scoreless inning against the Giants with a strikeout, a walk and a hit batter. His fastball velocity was right around 93 mph, which is in range with his last live bullpen session that saw him touch 95 mph.
Cobb's fastball averaged 92.5 mph last year, and with his improved mechanics after a visit to Driveline this offseason, it's trending up. But Cobb noted an increased velocity wasn’t one of his goals, it’s just something that’s improved with a cleaner delivery.
“I’ve never really been in this range this early in Spring Training or really any part of the season,” Cobb said. “I’m not trying to wrap too much around that thought. I think it’s a byproduct of cleaning everything else up.”
• Reliever Junior Guerra, who dealt with visa issues, arrived at Angels camp and is awaiting being officially cleared after COVID-19 intake protocols. Guerra isn’t on the 40-man roster, but is expected to get a long look this camp and is considered to have a solid chance of making the club. Lefty reliever José Quijada is still dealing with visa issues and hasn’t arrived yet.
• Right-handed reliever Gerardo Reyes underwent an MRI exam after experiencing elbow soreness during his outing on Sunday. The Angels should know more about the severity of his injury by Tuesday.
• Albert Pujols went 2-for-2 with a pair of RBI singles while batting behind Mike Trout, who went 1-for-1 with a walk. It was the first game of the spring for the two veterans, who weren’t in the lineup on Sunday.