PEORIA, Ariz. — Shohei Ohtani displayed a blend of patience and aggressiveness in his designated hitter debut with the Los Angeles Angels. At the end of the day, he had a 1.000 on base percentage, his first Cactus League hit, and something small to build upon.
Two days after his first outing as a starter, Ohtani was in the starting lineup for the Angels in a road game against the San Diego Padres. He walked in his first two plate appearances before jumping on the first pitch from reliever Michael Mariot and hitting a hard ground RBI single up the middle in the top of the fifth inning. Manager Mike Scioscia called for a pinch runner, and Ohtani received a warm ovation from the sparse crowd at Peoria Sports Complex on his way back to the dugout.
“I was able to see a lot of pitches and that was really good,” Ohtani said. “I just want to keep it going. I’m seeing the ball pretty well right now. Hopefully, I can have better at-bats. I think this goes for almost every player, but my hitting is always ahead of my pitching at this point in the year. It’s just like any other year.”
The Angels are trying to devise a comfortable and workable routine as Ohtani pursues his goal of making an impact as a two-way player. His primary focus will be as a member of a six-man starting rotation, but he is also expected to contribute as a DH.
The atmosphere was considerably more low-key than in Ohtani’s pitching debut Saturday, when he struggled with his control over 1 1/3 innings in a 6-5 loss to Milwaukee. A crowd of 6,019 was on hand in Tempe for that game, and Ohtani had trouble keeping his delivery in sync while throwing 17 strikes and 14 balls.
Ohtani batted second in the order between center fielder Eric Young Jr. and shortstop David Fletcher on Monday. Scioscia, citing the unusually early start to spring training this year, has yet to play Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, Justin Upton or any of Los Angeles’ other high-profile regulars.
Ohtani fell behind 0-2 against right-hander Jordan Lyles in his first at-bat, then laid off four straight pitches out of the strike zone for a walk. He walked again on five pitches against lefty Buddy Baumann before facing Mariot, a righty reliever with 44 career appearances in Philadelphia and Kansas City. Ohtani drove a fastball through the box to score Young and give the Angels a 4-1 lead before calling it a day.
“I was happy to get that first hit out of the way,” Ohtani said, “but I was also happy with my first two at-bats. I got to see a lot of pitches. And I got to see a righty and a lefty. I felt like I had three good at-bats, including the first two.
“One of the reasons I saw so many pitches my first two at-bats is that I just wanted to see the difference in the strike zones between Japan and the States. I felt like I accomplished that. Plus, there was a runner in scoring position so I just wanted to be aggressive.”
While the Angels have yet to outline a specific workload for Ohtani, his last healthy season in Japan could provide a bit of a roadmap. In 2016, Ohtani threw 140 innings and logged 323 at-bats as an outfielder for the Nippon Ham Fighters. Last year, his workload was curtailed by injuries and he made only five starts as a pitcher and hit .332 with a .942 OPS for the Fighters.
Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant not in Chicago Cubs lineup amid trade buzz
CHICAGO — Social media platforms were abuzz after the Chicago Cubs announced their Thursday starting lineup, which did not include stars Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo — although manager David Ross said no one has been traded. At least not yet.
“I had this earmarked for Rizz for a while now,” Ross stated before the Cubs’ series finale against the Cincinnati Reds. “First off-day after the All-Star break. That was normal.
“Looking at the length of the game last night and KB [Bryant] all over the place, and issues with his legs, just made some sense to me.”
Bryant saw his first action of the season at shortstop during Wednesday’s loss after starting the game in left field. He endured a 69-pitch ninth inning and had hamstring problems last week, so Ross decided a day off was needed.
Teams on the verge of a trade sometimes sit the player to keep him from getting injured. Ross was asked directly whether the moves were related to the looming trade deadline.
“They are not,” he said. “They are available off the bench. They’ll get a nice round of applause, I’m sure, when they get in there — if they get in there — to pinch hit. Everyone can hate me or blame me, but we have to take care of these guys. Nobody has been traded yet; let’s keep our heads about us.”
Bryant was drafted by the Cubs in 2013, winning Rookie of the Year and MVP in consecutive seasons. Rizzo came over in a trade with the San Diego Padres in 2012. Both are considered iconic Cubs after helping break a 108-year championship drought back in 2016.
“I’ve talked to both of them,” Ross said. “They know the situation; it could be their last home game and all that. Everyone is fine with what’s going on.”
Toronto Blue Jays address bullpen issues by acquiring closer Brad Hand from Washington Nationals
Hand is 5-5 with a 3.59 ERA and 21 saves this season.
Hand signed a one-year, $10.5 million contract with the Nats this past offseason. He was coming off another solid season as the closer for the Cleveland Indians in 2020, leading the major leagues with 16 saves, but was a victim of the team’s salary purge heading into 2021.
The Blue Jays have had a multitude of injuries in their bullpen, beginning with the team losing Kirby Yates to Tommy John surgery to start the season.
Adams, 25, is considered the best power hitter in Toronto’s system according to Baseball America. He joins the Nationals after hitting .239 with seven homers, 17 RBIs in 35 games for Triple-A East Buffalo.
Aaron Boone says Joey Gallo will be with New York Yankees on Friday
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — All-Star slugger Joey Gallo‘s trade to the New York Yankees from the Texas Rangers was completed Thursday, giving the heavily right-handed Yankees a much-needed powerful lefty bat.
Manager Aaron Boone said he spoke with Gallo on Thursday and “welcomed him to the team.”
“I think we’re a lot better today,” Boone said before the Yankees played Tampa Bay.
Boone said that Gallo will be with the Yankees for Friday’s series opener against the Marlins in Miami.
While he has played right field for Texas, Boone envisions Gallo playing a lot in left for the Yankees, who have Aaron Judge as their regular right fielder.
“We’re excited to add an All-Star,” Boone said.
The Rangers received right-hander Glenn Otto, second baseman Ezequiel Duran, shortstop Josh Smith and second baseman/outfielder Trevor Hauver from New York. Texas also sent pitcher Joely Rodriguez to New York.
New York’s left-handed hitters have struggled this season, ranking last in the majors in average (.197), 28th in home runs (22) and OPS (.633) and 29th in hard-hit rate (33%).
A two-time All-Star, Gallo ranks sixth in the AL this season with 25 home runs, to go with 55 RBIs and a .223 average. He had struggled mightily at the plate since the All-Star break, with no home runs and a .067 average in the 10 games following, before breaking out Tuesday with a three-run shot against the Diamondbacks.
Gallo, 27, is among just eight rostered major leaguers with multiple career 40-homer seasons (2017, 2018).
Gallo is owed $2.2 million from his $6.2 million salary. He is eligible for arbitration next winter and can become a free agent after the 2022 season.
The Yankees began the day 8½ games behind Boston in the AL East and trail Tampa Bay, Oakland and Seattle in the wild-card race for two spots.
Rodriguez, 29, is 1-3 with one save and a 5.93 ERA in 31 relief appearances this season, holding left-handed batters to a .176 average. He is 2-5 with a 5.05 ERA in 81 relief appearances over four seasons with Philadelphia (2016-17) and Texas (2020-21), and he was 3-7 with a 1.85 ERA over 90 relief appearances in 2018-19 for the Chunichi Dragons of Japan’s Central League.
Duran, 22, hit .290 with 15 doubles, six triples, 12 homers and 48 RBIs this season in 67 games with High-A Hudson Valley.
Hauver, 22, made his professional debut this season with Low-A Tampa, hitting .288 with 17 doubles, nine homers and 49 RBIs in 66 games.
Otto, 25, was 7-3 with a 3.33 ERA in 12 starts and one relief appearance with Double-A Somerset and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre this season.
Smith, 23, hit .324 with 12 doubles, nine homers, 24 RBIs and 17 stolen bases in 39 games with Low-A Tampa and High-A Hudson Valley.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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