There’s no questioning the power Shohei Ohtani possesses, with him launching long home runs during batting practice in Angels camp.
Should he excel as a hitter and pitcher this season, Ohtani’s power, particularly in Japan, will be even more profound.
“Ichiro [Suzuki], he was a superstar, like a Michael Jackson or Madonna,” Shigetoshi Hasegawa said. “He might be more than Ichiro if he’s successful hitting and pitching.”
A former Angels reliever, Hasegawa played with Suzuki in Seattle, so he has seen the attraction of a Japanese player starring in the United States.
He also can appreciate how difficult of a transition Ohtani, 23, is trying to make. Hasegawa joined the Angels at 28 in 1997 and spent nine seasons in the big leagues.
“Even just for pitching it’s pretty tough to adjust coming over here,” Hasegawa said. “It’s not going to be easy, both hitting and pitching. But it seems like he’s enjoying everything. That’s the key. You gotta enjoy the moment.”
Ohtani signed with the Angels in December and has started one game as a pitcher and two as a designated hitter in spring training.
He’s scheduled to make his second appearance on the mound Friday in a “B” game against Milwaukee in Phoenix. Ohtani threw a bullpen session Wednesday and did some work in the batting cage that manager Mike Scioscia characterized as “light.”
Hasegawa said he could envision Ohtani becoming a pitcher like countrymen Yu Darvish or Masahiro Tanaka but warned, “Right now, you can’t expect too much.”
Hasegawa arrived in camp Wednesday in part to do some work for a Japanese television network, his first assignment being an interview with Scioscia.
He also has been a scout for the Orix Buffaloes, who, like Ohtani’s former team, the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, play in the Nippon Professional Baseball league.
“He was the enemy, so I didn’t like him,” Hasegawa said of Ohtani, smiling. “Now, he plays for the Angels, I gotta cheer for him.”
Ian Kinsler is No. 1
Batting leadoff for the Angels … Ian Kinsler.
At least that was the lineup in an exhibition game against Cleveland, Scioscia playing his regulars after holding out most of them for the first five games.
Mike Trout hit second, followed by Justin Upton, Albert Pujols, Kole Calhoun and Zack Cozart.
Scioscia called his initial batting order “a great template to work off” but noted that things will remain flexible.
Kinsler walked in two plate appearances, stole a base, forced a throwing error and scored twice.
Andrew Heaney is looking for results
It is a tradition for pitchers to not worry about spring-training results, especially early in camp.
But left-hander Andrew Heaney, who’s battling for a rotation spot, isn’t carrying on that tradition in 2018.
“I’m to the point now where I’m ready to get people out,” he said. “I’m ready to be out there and not have to worry about anything other than just getting guys out.”
Coming back from elbow ligament-replacement surgery, Heaney returned in mid-August and made five starts, going 1-2 with a 7.06 earned-run average. He has started only six games since 2015.
Against the Indians, he pitched his first two innings of the spring, giving up two hits and striking out one.
Heaney said he’s trying to be more aggressive and not concern himself as much with his health or mechanics.
“I gotta get back to that,” he said. “That’s how I pitched before I was hurt. That’s how I want to pitch now.”