It’s official. Shohei Ohtani has made the Los Angeles Angels opening day roster. In a somewhat unexpected twist though, it appears likely the two-way star will make his hitting debut before throwing his first pitch in an MLB game.
Ohtani, who signed a minor-league deal with the Angels in December, was officially added to the Angels 40-man roster after Tuesday’s final exhibition game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. That outcome was expected all along. However, the smart money seemed to be on Ohtani serving as the Angels starting pitcher on Friday or Saturday in Oakland.
Instead, manager Mike Scioscia says Ohtani will start on Sunday, which is the final game of a four-game weekend series against the Oakland Athletics. That opens the door for Ohtani to serve as the designated hitter or even a pinch-hitter early in the series, and MLB.com’s Deesha Thosar says Scioscia hasn’t yet closed that door.
Garrett Richards, Tyler Skaggs and Matt Shoemaker will be the first three men up in the Angels’ rotation.
In an effort to make Ohtani’s transition a little smoother, the Angels are planning to go with a six-man rotation to begin the season. That would put Ohtani on track to make his home debut the following Sunday against the same A’s team. That strategy would also allow Ohtani to serve as designated hitter two or three times a week.
There have been several bumps in the road, and the truth is there are still more questions than answers concerning how Ohtani’s skills will translate to Major League Baseball. Ohtani made just two starts in big league games during spring training, allowing eight earned runs on nine hits, three of which were home runs. That amounts to a 27.00 ERA.
As a hitter, Ohtani has been even less convincing. He finished the Cactus League 3-for-28 (.107). Scouts have told Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan that Ohtani might need another 500 at-bats in the minor leagues to adequately develop his hitting.
Throughout it all, Ohtani has remained upbeat. The Angels have maintained a positive outlook too, noting that the process during spring training was more important than the results. Even with Ohtani’s debut looking different than we originally imagined, nothing about those feelings appear to have changed. But the unavoidable reality is that his results are about to matter a whole lot more starting this weekend.
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Mark Townsend is a writer for Yahoo Sports Have a tip? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter!
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