Otani downplays leg cramps, says he’s ready to swing bat again


A day after leg cramps prevented Shohei Otani from throwing a complete game, the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters youngster said Thursday he was eager to swing the bat despite his skipper’s reservations.

Otani, who will turn 20 on July 5, splits his time between the mound, where the right-hander is 6-1 with a 2.61 ERA in 11 games, and the batter’s box. The left-handed hitter plays right field and is batting .271 with two homers and 14 RBIs in 96 at-bats.

“There’s no problem,” he said as he prepared for his next action as a position player, when the Fighters visit the Hiroshima Carp on Saturday and Sunday.

On Wednesday at Koshien Stadium, Otani struck out 11 and retired 23 of the 24 batters he faced in a win over the Hanshin Tigers. However, he left the game after eight innings due to cramping in his right calf — the same trouble that derailed his previous start on June 11. In that game, Otani allowed a run in 6-1/3 innings against the Yomiuri Giants but left despite throwing just 77 pitches and retiring the last nine batters he had faced.

“I was thinking it’s been a while since he’s batted,” Fighters skipper Hideki Kuriyama said. “But if you think about that leg, I’m not positive.”

He added: “The priority is to prepare for his next mound appearance.”