It was a “B” game by definition and pretty much every measure Friday — Shohei Ohtani was not at his best.
This certainly wasn’t the rookie’s “A” game, not these three uneven innings against the Tijuana Toros of the Mexican League.
“I feel like I made a lot of good pitches,” the former Japanese star said through an interpreter, “and quite a few bad ones.”
Though spring training results are impossible to trust, there were plenty of numbers to ponder. Ohtani surrendered six runs and six hits, including a home run to Dustin Martin, a 33-year-old who has spent parts of five seasons at triple-A.
He struck out six, walked one, threw two wild pitches and hit two batters. Of his 64 pitches, 42 were strikes.
“It’s going to be a process,” catcher Rene Rivera said. “It’s going in a good direction.”
Ohtani again fought with command, though he did manage a few sharp sliders and split-finger pitches. His velocity topped out at 95 mph but was slightly down from the mid-90s he reached consistently in his first two starts.
The Angels had hoped for him to replicate throwing four innings but, because of his mounting pitch count, Ohtani was finished after three against a Tijuana lineup that featured Jorge Cantu as the only obvious former big-league name.
Later, he talked about his ongoing battle to get comfortable with the mounds and baseballs here.
Rivera suggested that another long inning by the Angels offense left Ohtani struggling to stay warm on a day temperatures reached the 80s. An extended stretch on the bench hindered Ohtani in his first spring training start.
“He got a little lost,” Rivera said of a third inning, in which Ohtani gave up three runs. “But he picked it up, and he finished the inning.”
Ohtani has made three starts, two in “B” games. This one was attended by general manager Billy Eppler, pitching coach Charles Nagy and an estimated 300 fans.
In those three games — covering roughly seven innings — he has given up 10 runs and struck out 16, the numbers representing both his trials and potential.
Ohtani’s next appearance on the mound could come Thursday when the Angels, in Cactus League split-squad games, face Colorado and the Chicago White Sox.
Rivera said he thinks Ohtani will be just fine, and that everything will change, and dramatically so, when the situation becomes more real.
“Once the lights come on, they call ‘play ball,’ you’re going to see a different [pitcher],” he said. “We’ll see a lot more velocity, sharper pitches. He’s going to be Ohtani. You have to give it time.”
Because of the fascination surrounding him (and that Ohtani is attempting to play regularly as both a pitcher and hitter), the scrutiny — regardless of how much or little the results matter — will not subside.
“I feel like I’m taking the right steps forward,” Ohtani said before exiting his news conference.
Simmons ‘ready to go’
It looked potentially bad, but Andrelton Simmons said he felt fine. Just as importantly, it didn’t sound like anything unusual.
“I didn’t hear any crazy noises,” the Angels shortstop said. “My arm got stuck a little bit. It took a quick second to release it.”
On the morning after an MRI revealed a strain of his left shoulder, Simmons reported to work and reported that he actually could work, saying, “I’m ready to go today, if they let me.”
The Angels weren’t about to let him, not with so much spring training still to go. His status officially was characterized as day to day, and Simmons was given a day to focus on treatment.
He was injured Thursday attempting to make a lunging stop against Oakland. Simmons said he could have remained in the game, and would have “fought my hardest to” had the incident occurred during the regular season.
“For a quick second it was just hard to get my shoulder to come back,” he said. “But, after I was, ‘OK, my shoulder’s OK.’ I felt that I was going to be fine.”
The Angels have seen their dynamic shortstop injured on a similar play. In May of 2016, Simmons sustained a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb making a diving play and missed nearly six weeks.
They dodged such a significant setback this time, manager Mike Scioscia calling this situation “a little bump in the road.”
The Angels optioned pitchers Troy Scribner and Dayan Diaz to triple-A Salt Lake and pitcher Jesus Castillo to double-A Mobile. They also reassigned outfielder Jahmai Jones to minor league camp.