ANAHEIM, California – Los Angeles Angels sensation Shohei Ohtani became the first player in MLB history to be named an All-Star as both a position player and a pitcher when the All-Star Game rosters were finalized Sunday.
Ohtani was selected as a pitcher after being voted into the game earlier in the week by fans as the American League’s designated hitter. The reserves and pitchers were announced to complete the American and National League teams’ 32-man rosters.
“It’s my first time so most importantly I want to have fun,” Ohtani said.
“There’s also the Home Run Derby so I want to enjoy all of the festivities,” he said.
Ohtani was joined by two other Japanese pitchers on the All-Star roster — Yusei Kikuchi of the Seattle Mariners, who attended the same high school as Ohtani in northeastern Japan’s Iwate Prefecture, and Yu Darvish of the San Diego Padres.
Ohtani and Kikuchi will be playing in the Midsummer Classic for the first time in their careers, while Darvish was selected to his fifth All-Star Game. This year’s contest will be held at Denver’s Coors Field on July 13.
It is the first time since 2014 that three Japanese players made the All-Star teams in the same year, and this year’s game could feature a first matchup between Ohtani and Darvish.
“I’ve never faced him so, frankly speaking, I’d like to. Hopefully, I can swing the way I always do,” Ohtani said.
Darvish, who withdrew from the 2017 All-Star Game at the request of the Texas Rangers, said he is up for the challenge.
“I’ve been through hell in the past (with injuries) so it’s great to be picked again when I’m about to turn 35. I’d be happy if I get to pitch against (Ohtani),” Darvish said.
Ohtani, who leads the majors in home runs, will also be the first Japanese-born player to compete in the Home Run Derby, held the night before the All-Star Game.
In a two-phase selection process, the fan-selected starters were announced Thursday. The reserves and pitchers were selected by a combination of player ballots and picks made by the Commissioner’s Office.
Ohtani received 121 votes and Darvish 105 votes in balloting by players, managers and coaches. Kikuchi was among the commissioner’s selections.
Ohtani is 3-1 in 12 starts with a 3.60 ERA so far, Darvish is 7-3 with a 2.65 ERA in his first 17 starts, and Kikuchi is 6-3 with a 3.18 ERA in 15 starts this season.
All three Japanese All-Stars in 2014 were pitchers — Darvish, New York Yankee Masahiro Tanaka and Koji Uehara of the Boston Red Sox. Tanaka was unable to play in the game because of an elbow injury and was replaced with Uehara on the AL All-Star team that year.
Ohtani also hit his major league-leading 31st homer of the season on Sunday in the Angels’ 6-5 walk-off victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday, tying the record for the most homers in a Major League Baseball season by a Japanese-born player.
With his third-inning solo shot off Baltimore’s Thomas Eshelman, Ohtani tied the record set by former New York Yankees player Hideki Matsui in 2004.
After blowing a four-run lead, the Angels rallied in the ninth to complete a sweep of the Orioles. With the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth, Juan Lagares smacked a double into right-center field to score two runs and win the game.
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