For one day at least, Shohei Ohtani wasn’t the Japanese big-leaguer making the most news. On Monday, it was Ichiro Suzuki, a future Hall of Famer who’s expected to sign this week with the Seattle Mariners.
So, after going 0 for 3 as the Angels designated hitter in a 7-5 spring training victory over the Cincinnati Reds, Ohtani was asked about the possibility of facing the legendary hitter this season.
“Hopefully, I’ll be on the roster and be able to play against him,” he said through an interpreter. “That would make me happy.”
Ohtani almost certainly will be on the Angels roster, though it’s uncertain if he would be in line to pitch against the Mariners when the teams meet for the first time in early May.
Ichiro, 44, became an option for Seattle when it was learned that outfielder Ben Gamel will be sidelined four to six weeks because of an oblique injury.
In his third spring training start as a hitter, Ohtani grounded out twice against the Reds and was robbed by Billy Hamilton of what would have been an extra-base hit into the left-center gap.
“I was jammed a little bit,” said Ohtani, who is now one for seven. “I didn’t think the ball was going to fall. It didn’t.”
Said Hamilton: "I want to take a hit away from anybody. I don't care who it is. … It just happened to be him, one of the guys who will be a star in this game.”
Ohtani is expected to start as the designated hitter again Tuesday when the Angels play the Arizona Diamondbacks in Scottsdale.
He is scheduled to make his third pitching start of the spring Friday in a “B” game in Tempe when the Angels face the Tijuana Toros of the Mexican League. The game is expected to be open to the public.
The Angels’ regular Cactus League game Friday is in Mesa against the Chicago Cubs.
This will be Ohtani’s second consecutive start in a “B” game, the Angels preferring to better control the environment and his workload. The plan is for him to pitch the equivalent of four innings, throwing about 60 pitches.
Soon enough, manager Mike Scioscia suggested, Ohtani will be back on the mound in a regular spring training game.
"At some point,” Scioscia said, “we have to take the water wings off him and put him in the deep end.”
Andrew Heaney has moved back to the first-base side of the pitching rubber, a slight shift that he believes will make an enormous difference.
“For me, it’s more comfortable,” he said after pitching three scoreless innings against the Reds. “I think for hitters, it’s more deceptive for sure. I’m throwing from way outside the hitting tunnel.”
When he returned from elbow ligament replacement surgery last season, Heaney moved to the third-base side at the Angels’ suggestion.
As a left-hander, he was told he had a better chance of avoiding injury since being on the glove-side of the rubber reduces torque.
However, Heaney struggled mightily in his return, going 1-2 with a 7.06 earned-run average in five starts. He gave up 12 homers in 21 2/3 innings.
“At some point, it’s like, ‘I’m going to be healthy for 15 years and give up a homer every other inning, that’s not going to be effective,’” Heaney said. “I’m not just saying, ‘[Forget] my health. I’m just going to sling it.’ But I’m going to go out there and get guys out.”
He began pitching on the first-base side during the 2013 Fall League and had remained there until his return in mid-August.
Waiting to maximize his chances of remaining physically sound, Heaney said the decision to follow the Angels’ initial suggestion was an easy one. The decision to go back to his former positioning was easy too.
“That was a little bit of frustration for me toward the end of the year, thinking, ‘This isn’t how I pitch, who I am, what I do,’” Heaney said. “Nothing drives you crazy like giving up 15 homers in 20 innings. That’s like historically bad.”
Scioscia again didn’t play most of his regulars Monday. Albert Pujols started at first base for the second time this spring and had his first hit. … Former Angels Cliff Pennington and Ben Revere started for the Reds and former Angel David Hernandez pitched in relief for Cincinnati.