Angels’ Ohtani gets first start on mound against A’s
OAKLAND, Calif. — The dress rehearsals are complete. It’s time for the real show Sunday afternoon when highly publicized Japanese star Shohei Ohtani makes his major league pitching debut for the Los Angeles Angels against the Oakland Athletics.
The 23-year-old Ohtani crossed the Pacific touted as a major-league-level left-handed hitter as well as a polished right-handed pitcher.
After a disappointing spring in which he went 4-for-32 at the plate with 10 strikeouts, Ohtani singled in his first MLB at-bat off A’s right-hander Kendall Graveman in the second inning of Thursday’s 6-5, 11-inning loss.
He never left the bench in consecutive Angels wins Friday and Saturday, in part to allow him to focus on Sunday’s highly anticipated start against A’s right-hander Andrew Triggs.
Ohtani, a veteran of 82 starts in five seasons in the Japan Pacific League, admitted that he has been there and done that when it comes to the scrutiny he’s expected to receive Sunday.
“Nothing really changes. There’s not much difference in how you control your mind in the opening game or during the rest of the season,” he said. “I’d like to give it my very best every game.”
After a shaky spring in which Ohtani allowed nine runs (eight earned) and nine hits in 2 2/3 innings (27.00 ERA), he would love the type of offensive support his new teammates afforded Matt Shoemaker in Saturday’s 8-3 victory.
The right-hander had a 1-0 lead before taking the mound, an advantage that ballooned to 7-0 by the sixth inning.
The A’s never faced Ohtani in the spring. Oakland manager Bob Melvin gushed over the import’s athleticism after seeing him run the bases Thursday night, but hasn’t had much to say about his pitching to a huge throng of Japanese reporters assigned to the series this week.
“I have not seen him firsthand, so you’re probably asking the wrong guy,” Melvin said. “We know he’s a very talented guy.”
Frankly, Melvin is more concerned about Triggs, Oakland’s starting pitcher Sunday. The A’s found themselves looking long and hard for starting options beyond Graveman and Sean Manaea in spring training, and designated No. 3 man Daniel Mengden flopped in his season debut, allowing six runs (five earned) and seven hits in 5 2/3 innings in Saturday’s loss.
Triggs pitched brilliantly in two starts against the Angels last season, allowing two runs (one earned) and seven hits in 11 2/3 innings. He was the winning pitcher in 3-1 and 5-1 victories.
In four career meetings against the Angels, Triggs is 2-0 with a 1.06 ERA.
The A’s have managed only four runs and 15 hits without a home run in their last two games against Angels pitching, after putting up six runs and 12 hits with two homers on Opening Night.
Angels outfielder Mike Trout, meanwhile, has rebounded with a single, two doubles and a home run in nine at-bats in wins Friday and Saturday after getting saddled with an 0-for-6 in the opener.