Ohtani’s first start is Sunday against A’s
Shortly after their final phony game, the Angels produced some very real news, manager Mike Scioscia announcing that Shohei Ohtani will make his pitching debut Sunday at Oakland in the finale of the team’s season-opening four-game series.
In his final spring training appearance — an intrasquad scrimmage Saturday in Arizona — Ohtani threw more than 80 pitches, convincing the Angels he’s ready for the next step.
“He should be able to get over 90,” Scioscia said. “If he’s throwing to his capabilities, that’s plenty of pitches to get deep into the game.”
Matt Shoemaker will start the Angels’ third game, following Garrett Richards and Tyler Skaggs. Scioscia said a decision about when Ohtani will debut as a designated hitter has not been made.
“We could have shuffled things in a lot of different ways,” Scioscia said of the order of the rotation. “This makes the most sense for where we are right now. We’ll adjust as we have to as we move through the season.”
Andrew Heaney, who was expected to be in the season-opening rotation, has been slowed by elbow inflammation. He threw a bullpen session Tuesday at Dodger Stadium, a session Scioscia called “terrific.”
Still, it appears Heaney will begin on the disabled list when the Angels set their 25-man roster before the opener. Because of their early schedule, they won’t need an additional starter until April 12.
The Angels also informed relievers Luke Bard and Noe Ramirez and infielder Jefry Marte that they made the team. They designated for assignment catcher Carlos Perez, optioned reliever Felix Pena to the minors and told Chris Carter he won’t be making the team.
The team’s second baseman and leadoff hitter, Ian Kinsler sat out his second consecutive exhibition game Tuesday because of groin tightness.
Scioscia said Kinsler was feeling better and would work out Wednesday, a significant test to see if he’ll be able to start the season on time Thursday in Oakland.
“I’m not going to handicap it,” Scioscia said of the chances of Kinsler missing extended time. “I think he’s made a lot of progress. We’ll know more [Wednesday].”
Kinsler started and went one for three Sunday at Angel Stadium in the opener of the Freeway Series. He hasn’t played since.
He was replaced at second base and atop the batting order Monday and Tuesday by Zack Cozart, a career-long shortstop who agreed to move to third base before signing with the Angels as a free agent in December.
Cozart played briefly at second toward the end of the Angels’ time in Arizona in anticipation of backing up Kinsler once the season began.
His versatility could prove to be even more important now.
“I feel like second base maybe comes a little more natural to me because it’s more similar to shortstop,” Cozart said. “You use your feet the same way. You have more time to react. I feel pretty comfortable there.”
Tuesday brought to a close an exhibition season that saw the Angels offer glimpses of their potential, particularly on offense where a deeper lineup is expected to score more runs.
“You need spring training to get your timing and get back into baseball shape,” Cozart said. “But I feel like for a week or two now, guys feel like they’re ready. I think we’re all excited to get it going.”
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