MLB spring training: Angels two-way player Shohei Ohtani a mixed bag in first spring start on mound

Angels two-way player Shohei Ohtani took the mound for his first spring start on Friday. He looked mostly good, but it wasn’t a perfect outing or anything, either. We’ll dig into that in a second, as how he looks is one of the most intriguing things to watch this spring. 

Now, all caveats apply with this being the spring. Trying to read something into spring stats is a fool’s errand, in general, as these bouts are tantamount to practice even if they are dressed up as games. 

With Ohtani on the mound, however, there’s some value in keeping an eye on him this spring. He is the first player in generations attempting to be pretty much an everyday hitter while also having a spot in a starting rotation. We know what he can do with the bat, as he’s taken 967 plate appearances at the big-league level and has posted a .269/.340/.503 line, good for a 125 OPS+. 

On the hill, he’s shown flashes of brilliance, but has only worked 53 1/3 innings in 12 starts. He had to be shut down in 2018 and eventually had Tommy John surgery. The biggest question is whether or not he’ll be able to stick as a pitcher or if he’ll need to just become an outfielder with a cannon. 

Friday, the stuff was good. He was sitting high-90s with his fastball, appearing to also mix in his curve, splitter and slider. 

He struck out the side in a scoreless first inning, stranding two runners. He got in a bit of trouble in the second and departed before the inning was over due to the limited pitch count being only March 5. 

The final line: 

Here are the strikeouts: 

The splitter diving on the latter three is the good stuff. 

All three hits he allowed were doubles, though two were hard grounders that were well-placed. Two walks in 1 2/3 innings aren’t ideal, but he worked around most of the traffic and missed bats well. The velocity is good, too, of course. 

Eyeballing it, the stuff could be what we’ve grown accustomed to calling “filthy” or “nasty.” He’s always had that, though. Keeping the arm healthy is the most important thing.   

The attention now turns to how Ohtani feels next time out as he looks to stick in a possible six-man rotation for the Angels along with Andrew Heaney, Dylan Bundy, Griffin Canning, Jose Quintana and Alex Cobb

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