A week into his first major league season, Shohei Ohtani is drawing comparisons unlike anything seen.
Babe Ruth, Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Trout have been mentioned in the same sentence as Ohtani, the Japanese rookie who’s turning heads and winning games with his ability to pitch and hit at the highest level.
After belting two towering home runs that helped Los Angeles win the past two games, Ohtani will likely serve as the designated hitter again Friday night when the Angels host the Oakland A’s in the opener of a three-game series at Angel Stadium.
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Ohtani is scheduled to be the starting pitcher on Sunday. He made his first start on the mound last Sunday in Oakland and allowed three runs and three hits in six innings while striking out six and walking one in the 7-4 victory. The win propelled the Angels to their first 3-1 start in 10 years.
“I’m just pumped because he was getting killed in spring training, even though it was spring training,” Angels second baseman Zack Cozart told the Los Angeles Times. “It’s really impressive, if you think about it. All the pressure’s on him. He’s just kind of thrown that out of the way.”
The Angels (5-2) can match their start from last season with a victory Friday night. They ended a 12-game losing streak to the Cleveland Indians on Tuesday thanks to a first-inning, three-run homer from Ohtani, then beat Cleveland again Wednesday in extra innings after Ohtani tied the score with a two-run homer off two-time American League Cy Young winner Corey Kluber in the fifth inning.
The A’s (3-5) are coming off a four-game split against the visiting Texas Rangers. They’ll hand the ball to starting pitcher Daniel Gossett (0-1, 9.00 ERA) on Friday night.
Gossett faced Ohtani on Sunday and lasted six innings, allowing four runs and six hits in the loss. He fell to 0-2 in his career against the Angels with a 5.06 ERA.
“I’ve still got stuff to work on, obviously,” Gossett told the San Jose Mercury News after his season debut. “I’m pretty frustrated that I couldn’t go deeper in the game. … Got to be more consistent in the zone.”
Jefry Marte has faced Gossett twice in his career and doubled both times. Marte is another player who’s off to a hot start for the Angels. He’s 5-for-13 so far, including 5-for-11 when he’s in the starting lineup.
Finding a spot in the lineup for Marte is a challenge, however. As long as Ohtani continues to hit well, he’ll like occupy the DH spot, except for the day before and the day after he pitches. Albert Pujols continues to hold down the starting job at first base, which is Marte’s primary defensive position.
Angels starting pitcher Parker Bridwell will make his season debut after he was recalled from Triple-A Salt Lake on Tuesday to replace Matt Shoemaker, who went on the 10-day disabled list with a strained right forearm.
Bridwell has made two starts against the A’s in his career. Both were five days apart last summer and represented the two poorest outings among his 20 starts in an overall strong season.
He lasted just three innings and allowed seven runs and six hits in a 10-8 win on Aug. 30 in Anaheim and went just three innings again on Sept. 4 in Oakland, allowing six runs and seven hits in the 11-9 win.
A’s first baseman Matt Olson has two home runs in four career at-bats against Bridwell.