He made international headlines Monday by standing in the bullpen pretending to pitch using a towel instead of a baseball.
So it was no surprise Tuesday when Shohei Ohtani tickled Twitter to its core with an actual in-game feat.
His opposite-field, three-run home run highlighted a seven-run first inning as the Angels beat Detroit 11-5 at Angel Stadium.
Within moments of the 411-foot drive landing in that same bullpen beyond left field, social media buzzed with an appearance by the Ohtani puppet.
The doll is part of a Japanese television show and is employed to re-create Ohtani’s home runs.
But the puppet, no matter how magical, would struggle to adequately convey the magnificence of what Ohtani did against the Tigers.
After Kole Calhoun and Justin Upton led off the first inning with singles, the rookie launched a fastball from Jacob Turner (0-1) with a swing that looked impossibly easy.
Ohtani appeared to hit the ball close to the end of his bat, yet it somehow exited at 107 mph and at an angle of 34 degrees, and it didn’t require a working knowledge of calculus to do the math.
This one was crushed squared.
“He leverages the ball really well,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “When he gets extended and barrels it up, the ball comes off very hot.”
As the home run descended from its peak height of 117 feet, Angels reliever Noe Ramirez scrambled to move under it and readied to catch the ball in his removed cap.
But at the last instant, Ramirez turned away like a man suddenly fearing for his safety. The ball one-hopped into the crowd.
“It might look like I’m taking easy hacks, but, for me, I’m swinging the bat pretty hard,” Ohtani said through an interpreter. “If it looks like that and the ball’s flying far, that’s a good sign.”
The home run was the 12th for Ohtani and came only hours after his potential return as a pitcher received a boost.
Scioscia said Ohtani is expected to throw a light bullpen workout Saturday as he continues to progress from a Grade 2 sprain of his right ulnar collateral ligament.
This, too, was big news, Ohtani’s bullpen session Monday, during which he replicated his pitching motion holding the towel, trumpeted in the manner of genuine breaking news.
But that’s the way every development is treated when the subject is a first-year hitting-pitching sensation doing things not accomplished in this sport since Babe Ruth played.
Ohtani’s night also included an infield single, a stolen base and a tag-up from third base, each of which showcased the speed he mixes with his power.
His home run, though, was the lasting moment on a night when the first six Angels to bat scored and the team rallied in support of struggling left-handed starter Andrew Heaney (7-7), who earned the victory but couldn’t reach the sixth inning.
The big first inning included a two-run single by Francisco Arcia and a steal of home by Arcia as part of a double steal.
Though records are unclear on such things, it can be safely assumed that Arcia is one of the few players in baseball history to steal home after opening the season as a team’s fifth-string catcher.