The Associated PressShohei Ohtani eagerly bounces into the cage when it’s his turn during batting practice — and then puts on an impressive show knocking balls high and deep into the outfield seats.
Whether hitting or pitching for the Los Angeles Angels, the rookie two-way sensation is raring to go and already wants to play more.
“He always says he’s ready,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “But right now we’re definitely going to protect him as much as we can.”
While the 23-year-old has definitely lived up to the hype in the first two weeks of the season, the AL West-leading Angels have a tricky balancing act in managing the workload for Ohtani, who appeared in nine of their first 14 games.
The right-handed pitcher with a fastball averaging about 158 kph, along with a nasty splitter and a biting slider, was 2-0 with a 2.08 ERA and 18 strikeouts over 13 innings while allowing only four hits in his two starts on the mound, both against Oakland. After retiring the final eight batters in his first start, he retired the first 19 in the next — that’s 27 consecutive outs, equal to a nine-inning perfect game.
In his first seven games with an at-bat, including one as a pinch-hitter, the left-handed slugger hit .346 with three homers.
“I talk to the medical staff every day and they try to see how I’m doing, my strength level, to see if I can play that day,” Ohtani said through his interpreter at the end of a three-game series in Texas. “It’s the beginning of the season so I think they are being pretty careful with me right now.
“But once the season gets tougher, the schedule gets tougher through the summer, hopefully I can make them want to play me more. I would like to play more,” he said. “But if not, that’s what it is. I have to follow what they say.”