Baseball / MLB

Shohei Ohtani hopeful for MLB showdown with school alum Yusei Kikuchi

KYODO

Los Angeles Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani said Tuesday he hopes to get the chance to face his high school alumnus Yusei Kikuchi should the left-handed pitcher strike a deal with a major league team.

“I think the teachers (at our school) are really looking forward to it. I’d like to show (that game) to them,” Ohtani said at an annual press photo exhibition in Tokyo’s Nihombashi shopping district.

Kikuchi, who was posted to the majors by the Seibu Lions earlier this month, has been thoroughly scouted by major league clubs since his days pitching for Iwate Prefecture’s Hanamaki Higashi High School, from which he graduated the month before Ohtani entered as a freshman.

The 27-year-old Kikuchi arrived in Los Angeles on Monday and has until Jan. 2 to negotiate a deal with any of the 30 major league teams.

Ohtani, meanwhile, said he will remain focused on his rehabilitation to ensure a showdown remains possible. The two-way phenom underwent offseason Tommy John surgery to repair ligament damage in his throwing elbow and will likely be used solely as a hitter next season.

“First, I want to do my best with rehab,” Ohtani said. “If I’m in a position where I can go out and play every game, then there will be opportunities to take the plate (when Kikuchi is pitching).”

The 24-year-old American League Rookie of the Year said that while he hopes for a swift recovery, he is realistic about the timetable of the surgery, which is known to sideline pitchers for an entire season.

“The shortest time (to get back on the mound) would be the start of the season, and of course I’ll try my best…but there will be times when I’ll have to delay if my condition isn’t getting better.”

“I’ll start throwing lightly a little while after the season starts.”

In his major league debut, Ohtani became the first player since Babe Ruth 100 years ago to hit 15 home runs and pitch 50 innings in a season, as well as start 10 games on the mound and hit 20 homers.