TEMPE, Ariz. — Shohei Ohtani‘s spring training pitching debut is one that he’ll file under “learning curve.”
Ohtani took the mound with plenty of hype and a “B” lineup in the field behind him in Saturday’s game between the Los Angeles Angels and Milwaukee Brewers. He labored with his control and threw 31 pitches — only 17 of them strikes — before departing with one out in the top of the second inning and the score tied 2-2.
Ohtani, who became a star in his early 20s with the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters and earned the moniker of “Japan’s Babe Ruth,” is trying to achieve a rarity with the Angels this season as a starting pitcher and part-time designated hitter. He’s been followed by waves of Japanese media this spring, and a larger-than-usual crowd was in the stands at Tempe Diablo Stadium for his Cactus League debut.
After Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero threw out the ceremonial first pitch, Ohtani took the mound with Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the Sky” playing over the stadium loudspeakers. Brewers shortstop and leadoff man Jonathan Villar worked the count to 3-1 before driving a double over Eric Young Jr.’s head in straightaway center field, and Milwaukee took a 1-0 lead on a walk, a wild pitch and a throwing error by Angels catcher Martin Maldonado.
The Angels came back to take a 2-1 lead before Keon Broxton lined a home run to left field off Ohtani to tie the game 2-2. After Nick Franklin flied out to left field, Angels manager Mike Scioscia went to the mound and lifted Ohtani. The crowd gave Ohtani a warm ovation as he walked off the mound, and he exchanged high-fives with several teammates in a crowded Angels dugout.
Ohtani appeared over-amped in his debut and struggled with fastball command while burying several breaking pitches in the dirt. His most impressive sequence came against Brett Phillips in the first inning, when he elicited “oohs” from the crowd with a slow curveball, then caught Phillips looking at a fastball for strike three.
Ohtani was clearly the main attraction for the Angels, who held out most of their top position players against Milwaukee. Maldonado and first baseman Luis Valbuena were the only regulars in the starting lineup Saturday.
The Angels have yet to indicate when Ohtani will make his first appearance as a designated hitter in Arizona, but they’ve said he will not be in the lineup as a DH the day before or after he pitches. So the earliest he can DH is Monday against the San Diego Padres at the Peoria Sports Complex.
Ohtani gave the Angels a tantalizing preview Thursday, when he launched several home runs over the scoreboard and the center field batting eye at Tempe Diablo. He hit .286 with a .500 slugging percentage over five seasons with Nippon.
Source — Jurickson Profar, San Diego Padres agree to 3-year, $21 million deal
Profar continues to show his versatility as a true utilityman, having played five defensive positions for the Padres last season while seeing most of his action in left field and at second base. He hit a career-high .278 with seven home runs and 25 RBIs in 56 games during the pandemic-shortened season.
The 27-year-old continues to get on track offensively as he gets more playing time, something he didn’t have during his first six years after the top prospect was called up by the Texas Rangers in 2012. He got off to a horrible start during the 2020 season but compiled an .879 OPS over the final 43 games, hitting .331.
The Padres acquired Profar in a trade with the Oakland Athletics after the 2019 season, and he beat out Brian Dozier to win the starting job at second base. His slow start, however, led to Jake Cronenworth taking over at the position, but opportunity soon followed as Profar moved to left field after Tommy Pham was injured.
Overall, in seven major league seasons, Profar has a .238 batting average with 59 home runs and 222 RBIs with the Padres, Athletics and Rangers.
Images from Hank Aaron’s chase for the career home run record
Baseball Hall of Fame slugger Hank Aaron died Friday in his sleep. He was 86. The Mobile, Alabama, native is remembered as one of the greatest hitters of all time. He spent his entire adult life in baseball, as a player and in the Atlanta Braves’ front office. Take a look back at some of the greatest moments from his career, including the chase for his record-breaking 715th career home run.
Tributes to a legend — Baseball world and beyond honors Hank Aaron
The importance of Hank Aaron to baseball — and to American culture — is unmistakable. The Hall of Famer and longtime MLB home run king was a symbol of greatness on the field and dignity off it, facing death threats as a Black man approaching and then breaking Babe Ruth’s hallowed home run mark with the Atlanta Braves in 1974.
His death on Friday morning, at age 86, reverberated beyond sports. Here are some of the many tributes to Hammerin’ Hank on social media, from current and former big leaguers to civil rights leaders and other luminaries.
We will miss you.
Your leadership. Your grace.
Your generosity. Your love.
Thank you, #HankAaron.
— Be A King (@BerniceKing) January 22, 2021
Rest in Peace to American hero, icon, and Hall of Famer Hank Aaron. I still remember where I was back in the day when he set the record, at that time, to become the home run all time leader. While a legendary athlete, Hank Aaron was also an extraordinary businessman…
— Earvin Magic Johnson (@MagicJohnson) January 22, 2021
America lost an extraordinary soul in @HenryLouisAaron. On the field, he brought power + purpose. In the community, Hank Aaron invested in progress, in people & in dreams. May his wife, Billye, his family and friends find peace in their sorrow, knowing how deeply he was loved. pic.twitter.com/TlFNuG9x0a
— Stacey Abrams (@staceyabrams) January 22, 2021
Heartbroken to see another true friend & pioneer has passed away. @HenryLouisAaron was so much better than his reputation! His contributions were much more than just baseball. Jeannine & I send our 🙏🏾 & deepest condolences to his wife & kids. #RIPHammeringHank #RIP @MLB @Braves pic.twitter.com/ONO49xEOKQ
— TheBillRussell (@RealBillRussell) January 22, 2021
Saddened to say today I lost one of my heroes, Henry Aaron. I was so Happy when I saw a man of color break the home run record. A great man both on and off the field. I send my love to the Aaron family. pic.twitter.com/2yXVjdn4X4
— Fergie Jenkins (@fergieajenkins) January 22, 2021
While the world knew him as ‘Hammering Hank Aaron’ because of his incredible, record-setting baseball career, he was a cornerstone of our village, graciously and freely joining Mrs. Aaron in giving their presence and resources toward making our city a better place. pic.twitter.com/hO7nkIYvVD
— Keisha Lance Bottoms (@KeishaBottoms) January 22, 2021
Hank Aaron was not only a home run king, but a king of justice. In the face of racism and vitriol, he broke through barriers with grace on his way to becoming one of the greatest baseball players of all-time. We’ve lost a true trailblazer and American icon.
May he rest in peace. https://t.co/HXD5bqGbnm
— Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) January 22, 2021
A slugger has rounded the bases for the last time. Hank Aaron was a trailblazer and a hero who had to stare down hatred. He was also one of the best ballplayers to ever play the game. He was a joy to watch and a marvel to behold. May he Rest In Peace.
— Dan Rather (@DanRather) January 22, 2021
I met the hammer in 1984 was a better person than a baseball player r.i.p my friend pic.twitter.com/URNPdHTzoX
— Dwight Gooden (@DocGooden16) January 22, 2021
All I can tell you at this moment is besides our friendship #America @MLB_PLAYERS @NLBMuseumKC @MLB will miss @HenryLouisAaron #admiration #respect for his impact on society. I was always honored to spend time with Hank pic.twitter.com/dPrvFfhZzY
— Dave Winfield (@DaveWinfieldHOF) January 22, 2021
Hank Aaron, my childhood baseball hero, has gone home. Watching him break Babe Ruth’s record for most home runs on television was a monumental moment. As a young black child, he inspired me to push for excellence. Rest easy Sir. pic.twitter.com/frco9tTIdV
— Lenny Kravitz (@LennyKravitz) January 22, 2021
— MC HAMMER (@MCHammer) January 22, 2021
A legend on and off the ball field… the best to ever do it… RIP Mr Hank Aaron 🙏🏿 #44 pic.twitter.com/3LH6iB9auV
— David Ortiz (@davidortiz) January 22, 2021
Hank… my dad and Grandfather raved about you. Thanks for changing the game of baseball… but more importantly thanks for bringing America together through love in a time of such great hate.
— Russell Wilson (@DangeRussWilson) January 22, 2021
I’m speechless! RIP to the greatest of all time Mr. Hank Aaron!! I’m just stunned. Hank was the standard of greatness for me. The one man who I acted like a kid around star struck always! He was the definition of class! God Bless you and your family!! #HRKing#HammeringHank🙏🏾🙏🏾
— Frank Thomas (@TheBigHurt_35) January 22, 2021
I can’t imagine what Hank Aaron went through in his lifetime. He had every right to be angry or militant…..but never was! He spread his grace on everything and every one he came in contact with. Epitome of class and integrity. RIP Henry Aaron! #HammerinHank
— Chipper Jones (@RealCJ10) January 22, 2021
Nancy and I pass our condolences to all of Hank’s family today. So saddened to hear the news of Hank’s passing. There was a certain spirit, even a reverence, when in Hank Aaron’s presence that you could feel. Grace, strength, integrity. We were blessed to have known him. @Braves
— Dale Murphy (@DaleMurphy3) January 22, 2021
Rest in Heaven sir! Hammer on pic.twitter.com/7ICL6R0ZAf
— Shed Long Jr. (@SLONG895) January 22, 2021
— Mike Trout (@MikeTrout) January 22, 2021
RIP Henry Louis “Hank” Aaron! Sad sad day. Thankful for your heroism! 🖤 pic.twitter.com/oyfWfr0M80
— Marcus Stroman (@STR0) January 22, 2021
Yooooooooooo😞😞😞😞😞😞😞😞😞😞😞😞RIP to one of the greatest baseball players and human beings ever. Wow I’m floored but privileged to have been in Mr. Aarons presence!! Just wow. https://t.co/2Q87MzDVB1
— 10 (@SimplyAJ10) January 22, 2021
R.I.P legend. Thank you for paving the way for us✊🏽 https://t.co/mQrQSnbH3O
— jp crawford (@jp_crawford) January 22, 2021
Gibson, Ford, Brock, Seaver, Kaline, Morgan, Niekro, Lasorda, Sutton and now Hammerin Hank. We’ve lost some of the greatest to ever do it this year. @TommyLasorda is gonna have a hell of a roster to manage up there. #RIPLegends
— Justin Turner (@redturn2) January 22, 2021
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