Ohtani 'excited' after day of highs and lows

Lagares sizzling; Maddon's lofty comps for Rojas

March 14th, 2021

Angels two-way star ran into some trouble in the second inning but otherwise showed impressive stuff on the mound yet again in Saturday's 6-5 loss to the White Sox at Camelback Ranch. His fastball reached as high as 99 mph and his splitter looked unhittable at points, especially in a three-pitch strikeout of Yoán Moncada in the first inning.

Making his second start of the spring, Ohtani had some trouble with his command and was charged with five runs on six hits and one walk over 2 1/3 innings. But Ohtani struck out four, and three of those runs scored after he left the game with the bases loaded and two outs in the second. He returned for the third and gave up a leadoff double to Luis Robert, who also homered in the second, but struck out Yermín Mercedes for the second out before exiting.

"Overall, I felt really good," Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. "I left some breaking balls hanging up in the zone and they did some damage, giving up the homer, and the [leadoff] double to Tim Anderson. But otherwise, I felt good."

Ohtani was also hurt in the second by a double from Adam Eaton that hit off center fielder Jo Adell's glove as he ran into the center-field wall. Adell left the game after the inning but only for precautionary reasons, according to the Angels.

Ohtani was otherwise sharp with his splitter, though he struggled with his fastball and curveball command at times. He made it a point to throw more curveballs this outing to get a better feel for it.

"Today, I was trying to get ahead in the count but left some pitches hanging to the leadoff hitters," Ohtani said. "So, it's something I need to work on. But pitching-wise, up to this point, I'm really excited about the way spring has gone."

Angels manager Joe Maddon has indicated that Ohtani will simply be part of the club’s six-man rotation this year instead of pitching on a designated day of the week. Ohtani, however, is likely to be a bit behind the other pitchers at the end of camp, but he threw 58 pitches on Saturday and is expected to get two more starts this spring. Ohtani is also working on his hitting and serving as the designated hitter several times a week, which makes it more difficult for him to be on a normal starting pitcher’s schedule.

“It’s just different,” Maddon said. “He’ll be a little bit behind. But we’re not concerned. It’ll only be like 15 pitches behind or something like that.”

Angels tidbits
• Kurt Suzuki was behind the plate for Ohtani for a second straight outing, but Maddon said it’s a coincidence and that Suzuki will not be a personal catcher. Suzuki will serve as the club’s backup catcher to Max Stassi.

• Outfielder Juan Lagares ripped an RBI double in the second inning and is making a solid case to make the club as a fourth outfielder. He’s competing with fellow non-roster invitees Jon Jay and Scott Schebler. Jay formerly played for Maddon with the Cubs in 2017, while Schebler homered on Friday and is also having a strong spring.

• Maddon has been impressed by infielder José Rojas, who has homered twice this spring and has been an above-average hitter throughout his Minor League career. Rojas, an Anaheim native, spent last year at the club's alternate site and has been working to find a position defensively. Maddon compared him to players such as Mike Moustakas and Daniel Murphy, who are known for their offense, and found a position defensively.

“People may scoff at those comps, but I think they are very realistic,” Maddon said. “We’ll see how it plays out for him. He’s very motivated, very directed, very serious-minded when it comes to his craft. We like everything about him.”