The moment Los Angeles Angels fans have been waiting for since Shohei Ohtani signed in December finally happened on Saturday. The 23-year-old right-hander, who on occasion will act as the team’s designated hitter, made his United States and MLB pitching debut in the Angels Cactus League game against the Milwaukee Brewers.
Ohtani, whose fastball routinely reaches triple digits and whose slider and splitter have baffled hitters in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball since he was 18, didn’t have a fairy tale debut. He started slow and never really seemed to get in rhythm, but flashed more than enough goodness to keep the excitement level high.
Ohtani faced seven batters, allowing a home run and an unearned run while striking out two. He needed 26 pitches to get through the first inning and as a result was pulled after two batters into the second frame.
#Angels Shohei Ohtani is done for the day. He gave up a HR to Keon Broxton in the 2nd. He pitched 1.1 IP, 2H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2K. One wild pitch. He threw 31 pitches, 17 strikes. Topped out at 97 mph.
— Jeff Fletcher (@JeffFletcherOCR) February 24, 2018
The home run was a no-doubter by Milwaukee’s Keon Broxton to lead off the second inning.
Keon Broxton’s first dinger of the Spring comes off of Shohei Ohtani
— Baseball King™ (@BasebaIlKing) February 24, 2018
In the first inning, Jonathan Villar greeted Ohtani by lacing a 3-1 pitch for a double over the head of center fielder Eric Young Jr. And no, it probably wouldn’t have made a difference if Mike Trout was out there. Ohtani rebounded by striking out minor leaguer Nate Orf with a filthy splitter.
After a walk to Ji-Man Choi, Ohtani uncorked a wild pitch that led to a Martin Maldonado throwing error and Milwaukee’s first tally. He finished the inning by getting a Manny Pina popup and catching Brett Phillips looking at a called third strike.
It was an undeniably uneven outing, but that’s to be expected for any starting pitcher in February. As the typical spring training mantra goes, it was more about getting work in and getting comfortable than the results.
You wouldn’t have guessed that though based on the buzz surrounding the outing. Dozens of reporters and photographers have descended upon Angels camp this spring, many of whom have followed Ohtani from Japan. It’s definitely the craziest an Angels camp has been in a long time. Not even the hype surrounding Mike Trout moved the needle as much as Ohtani’s arrival.
It’s reminiscent of Masahiro Tanaka’s arrival at New York Yankees camp in 2014. Everyone wants to catch a glimpse of Japan’s Babe Ruth.
Saturday provided more than a glimpse, but it’s also just a taste of things to come. With his pitching debut behind him, Ohtani is scheduled to serve as the Angels designated hitter on Monday.
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