SAPPORO – The day after the Los Angeles Angels’ Shohei Ohtani won his pitching debut, Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters manager Hideki Kuriyama said Monday he was relieved to see the two-way talent start off in style since making his move from the Nippon Professional Baseball team.
“I just thought how blessed he is to be able to play on such a huge stage. I’m relieved,” Kuriyama, 56, said.
The 23-year-old Ohtani made a bold debut both as a pitcher and a hitter. He threw three-hit ball over six innings in the Angels’ 7-4 victory over the Oakland Athletics on Sunday, three days after he singled in his first career at-bat as designated hitter.
“I believed he can become the best player in the world when I sent him off to the majors,” Kuriyama said. “It’s amazing how he has been able to start off well in both (pitching and hitting).”
In December, Ohtani signed a minor league contract with the Angels after five seasons with the Pacific League’s Fighters.
Despite receiving a non-roster invitation to the American League ballclub’s spring training, he did not enjoy the dominance he had in Japan, giving up 19 runs in five games on the mound and batting .125 in 32 at-bats.
Kuriyama, who has managed the club since 2012, expressed his confidence in the MLB rookie and said he was not worried.
“He is the type of player who can enjoy his rough moments. He can’t improve without suffering,” he said. “I can’t wait to see how much he grows.”
Ohtani could make his home debut as designated hitter as early as Tuesday, when Los Angeles faces the Cleveland Indians at Angel Stadium in Anaheim.