MLB

Shohei Ohtani to pitch for Angels during opening weekend

AFP-Jiji

Los Angeles Angels two-way standout Shohei Ohtani will pitch in his first Major League Baseball game since 2018 next Sunday against the Oakland Athletics and plans on making regular Sunday starts all season.

The 26-year-old Japanese right-hander, who also serves as a designated hitter for the Angels, played only as a batter in 2019 after undergoing Tommy John surgery to repair the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.

"Obviously, I'm very excited to be back on the mound. It has been almost two years," Ohtani said through a translator in a posting on the league website.

The Angels are set to open the coronavirus-delayed MLB season on Friday in Oakland, with Ohtani batting before returning to the mound in the third game of the series.

"I want to be prepared to be in the lineup on opening day as a hitter and then hopefully we can win the first two games and get some momentum into the third game, which I think I'm going to start," he said.

Ohtani was the 2018 American League Rookie of the Year after batting .285 with 22 home runs, 10 stolen bases and 61 RBIs, and also going 4-2 in 10 pitching starts with a 3.31 ERA and 63 strikeouts.

Babe Ruth is the only other player who managed 10 pitching appearances and 20 homers in an MLB season.

Ohtani made his final pitching preparations in an intrasquad game on Sunday, allowing one run over five innings with six strikeouts and four walks.

The Angels' plan for using Ohtani is similar to 2018, when he threw on Sundays and took days off on Saturdays and Mondays. It helps that the team has three Mondays off during the season.

Barring injury, the schedule would set up Ohtani for 10 starts this season and 33 appearances as a designated hitter during the shortened 60-game schedule.

"It looks like going on Sundays is the best option," Ohtani said. "We have the most off days on Monday. I'm not going to hit the following day so it gives me a chance to rest up."

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