Angels keep Shohei Ohtani indoors while team is at Tempe Diablo Stadium
While the topic of where Shohei Ohtani should open the season remained a lively one, the question of where he actually was Saturday also surfaced.
Ohtani did not join his teammates on the field at Tempe Diablo Stadium, the Angels instead having him do most of his morning work indoors, including studying video with pitching coach Charles Nagy.
His readiness for the start of the Angels’ season has come into question with his recent struggles as a pitcher and hitter.
There has been speculation Ohtani could open in the minors, although the Angels remain unwavering in their public support and belief that he will be ready for opening day.
Later Saturday, the team even shifted its original plans that called for Ohtani to hit in a minor league game Sunday. Instead, he will start as the designated hitter when the Angels play Texas.
Manager Mike Scioscia explained that players missing on-field work is not unusual, the difference this time being that the attention on Ohtani made his absence more obvious.
As an example, several photographers at one point Saturday were spotted scrambling to capture images of Ohtani walking toward the batting cages.
“It’s not outside the realm of what we do with other pitchers,” Scioscia said. “Sometimes, you don’t realize when [Matt] Shoemaker’s not here or when [Garrett] Richards isn’t here. It happens. It’s part of how we try to get concepts across to a pitcher.”
On Friday, Ohtani gave up seven runs and retired only four Colorado Rockies. He was pulled after 50 pitches and went to the bullpen to throw the equivalent of another three innings.
“I think Shohei is very close,” Scioscia said. “I thought you saw the stuff there, especially getting out of that first inning. There are some things he’s very close on, he’s working on.”
In four starts this spring, including “B” games, Ohtani has given up 15 earned runs in 8 1/3 innings. Of the 25 batters he has retired, 19 have been by strikeout.
As a hitter, he finished his first Cactus League game with a single and two walks in three plate appearances. Since then, he’s one for 19.
With Ohtani playing against the Rangers, Scioscia said Albert Pujols will hit Sunday in a minor league game, a common spring-training practice when trying to get players at-bats.
Ohtani’s next pitching appearance remains in question, Scioscia saying only that it wouldn’t come before Thursday. When he does pitch, it could happen in a minor league game.
Even with the Angels’ continued belief in Ohtani, what remains of spring training will be significant in his development. The team’s final game in Arizona is Saturday.
“We’re going to pay a lot of attention this week to getting him where he needs to be,” Scioscia said. “He works very hard. When he gets back out there, hopefully we’ll get the results he’s looking for.”
No freebies from him
It is one of the more interesting statistics on Parker Bridwell’s record as an Angel, the fact he didn’t allow a stolen base last season in 121 innings.
Bridwell is swift with his delivery to the plate, something that discourages even the best base stealers.
But he instead credited Gold Glove-winning catcher Martin Maldonado and did so about as completely as possible.
“That’s all him,” Bridwell said. “That has nothing to do with me. I’m quick to the plate. I get that. But runners in the big leagues are fast enough to time anything. Because of him, I never had to worry about a base-runner stealing second.”
In his first season as a full-time starter, Maldonado cemented his reputation as a defensive ace.
Among catchers, he had the second-highest caught-stealing percentage and second-best fielding percentage and was third in defensive WAR.
Tuning up some more
Richards, who’s expected to be the opening-day starter, will pitch Sunday in a minor league game. That will be his fifth start, meaning he’ll likely make one more before the Angels begin the regular season March 29 in Oakland.
Nick Tropeano, one of the candidates battling for a rotation spot, will start in the Angels’ Cactus League game Sunday against Texas.
John Lamb started for the Angels on Saturday against Seattle in nearby Peoria.
The Angels optioned Jose Fernandez and Matt Thaiss to the minor leagues, leaving 43 players in camp.
The group includes David Fletcher, a middle infielder who was a sixth-round pick in 2015. Last season, he reached triple-A Salt Lake, where he hit .254 in 205 at-bats.
Trying to complete an unlikely journey to make the opening-day roster, Fletcher, 23, is batting .350 with a team-high 14 hits.
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