Shohei Ohtani’s diligent approach leaves Angels’ pitching coach in awe

Angels pitcher Shohei Ohtani delivers a pitch.
Angels pitcher Shohei Ohtani has impressed pitching coach Mickey Callaway with his commitment to his craft.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Before he even began to spend time around Shohei Ohtani, first-year Angels pitching coach Mickey Callaway knew what to expect from the two-way star.

General manager Billy Eppler had painted a clear picture of Ohtani for Callaway. He compared Ohtani to Ivan Drago, the antagonist in “Rocky IV” who trains intensely for his fight against Rocky Balboa in a gym surrounded by scientists and trainers monitoring electrodes attached to his chest.

“Very state of the art,” Callaway said in a videoconference Tuesday before an intrasquad game at Angel Stadium. “Very regimented.”

Callaway certainly hasn’t seen Ohtani in a setting mirroring the one in the film. But he has watched Ohtani navigate his workload, which is double that of most players, with unrivaled dedication.

And Ohtani’s diligence has left Callaway in awe.

“He has the most difficult job in baseball,” Callaway said. “He’s got to maintain his ability to swing the bat and be productive off the mound, and that’s a very, very taxing thing every day to do. His routines are going to be key for him to stay healthy, one, and to stay productive, two.


“He does an unbelievable job and has impeccable routines throughout the day.”

Angels pitching coach Mickey Callaway speaks about his coaching philosophies.
Angels pitching coach Mickey Callaway has been impressed with what he has seen from Shohei Ohtani in his return to the mound.
(Greg Beacham / Associated Press)

Ohtani’s commitment to the craft is part of the reason neither Callaway nor manager Joe Maddon hit the panic button after watching Ohtani wrestle with his mechanics and command in two training camp starts, during which he has issued a combined 11 walks in 6 1/3 innings. They both believe Ohtani’s performance will improve when he’s in a more competitive environment, pitching to divisional foes in regular-season games instead of to his own teammates in scrimmages.

“I think the biggest factor in his command right now has been facing his own guys, especially those guys that are going to be out there playing defense behind him, our starters,” Callaway said. “The day he had to face some of those guys, he was a little erratic, not really wanting to throw the ball inside at the fear of maybe hitting one of them. So we put him against the younger kids. He was better. And I suspect he’s going to continue to get better, especially when it’s the opposing team out there hitting against him.”

Short hops

Brandon Marsh, the Angels’ No. 2 prospect who missed the first 11 workouts, reported to camp Tuesday but remained on the injured list for undisclosed reasons. Marsh sprained his elbow while attempting a diving play in late February but was cleared to return to game action before spring training was suspended. He played catch with his fellow outfielders. … Infielders Matt Thaiss and Jared Walsh participated in an intrasquad game for the first time since reporting to training camp. … Starters Griffin Canning and Dylan Bundy each pitched five innings and struck out eight in a 7½-inning game. Top prospect Jo Adell had a triple against Bundy and a double off reliever Keynan Middleton.

Angels right-hander Shohei Ohtani was pleased at his performance on the mound Monday during an intrasquad game.

July 13, 2020