When Shohei Ohtani arrived in the big leagues in 2018, faced with skepticism about the possibility of succeeding either way, he faced the pressure just trying to have fun.
He tries again.
That’s kind of how I felt in 2018, Ohtani said via her performer in her first spring interview on Thursday. Rather than having the pressure, I just want to have fun and feel good out there, and do my job when it’s given. Hope I want (Manager) Joe (Maddon) to use me as much as possible.
The 2018 Ohtani produced a .925 OPS on set and a 3.31 ERA on the mound, performances the Angels would love to see again.
They especially need him on the mound, where he’s barely been in the two seasons since Tommy John’s surgery.
He is now 100% physically, including a more rigorous training regimen during the offseason. After starting a 27-length enclosure session on Thursday morning, Ohtani said his arm felt a lot better than last year.
Maddon said Ohtani hit 95mph in pitching sessions before spring training, although the Angels reported him reaching a high of 90mph on Thursday.
I’m not worried at all, Ohtani said. This is my first paddock wearing a uniform this year, so I’m not too worried about the bike.
Ohtani also didn’t seem concerned with the offensive crisis he suffered last season, when his OPS fell to 0.657 and he often found himself on the bench at the end.
I hit the whole offseason and think my swing is feeling really good right now, Ohtani said. My body feels good. I think we were in a good hitting position.
If Ohtani continues to be healthy and performs as well as he expects, the next question will be how the angels will use him.
During his rookie season, the Angels had a strict schedule in which he pitched no more than once every seven days and he didn’t hit the night before or after pitching.
Maddon said they are starting from scratch, with no predetermined restrictions. Maddon and Ohtani met Thursday morning to discuss the plan.
I feel really good about it, Ohtani said. He explained how we need to communicate more with each other, gain the trust of others and get to know each other. I feel really good that I don’t have the restrictions.
Maddon said they never got to the point of this conversation last year. During his first year working with Ohtani, Maddon didn’t know him well. And in spring training, they already knew that Ohtani wouldn’t launch until mid-May, so the discussion about integrating both sides of his game hadn’t happened until the pandemic ended.
I want him to tell me what he’s thinking, how he’s feeling, Maddon said ahead of their Thursday morning meeting. Shohei, what would be a great way for us to see you and make the most of your abilities this year, whether it’s on the mound, whether it’s hitting? … This year, I want him to take his own path.
– Jeff Fletcher (@JeffFletcherOCR) February 18, 2021
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