Shohei Ohtani greets his former Angels teammates and then goes hitless

By | March 6, 2024

Shohei Ohtani exchanged handshakes and hugs in the outfield with former teammates and coaches before Tuesday night’s Cactus League game at Camelback Ranch, and he posed arm-in-arm with Angels star Mike Trout for a photo seen by 2.4 million people. X was viewed. formerly Twitter) at the end of the game.

The Dodgers’ new designated hitter went hitless with two strikeouts in three at-bats in a 4-0 exhibition loss to the team he spent his first six seasons in the big league with before signing his historic 10-year, $700 million contract with the Dodgers. in December.

A relatively sparse night-game crowd was present for Ohtani’s first appearance against his former club, giving the reunion the feel of a typical exhibition game for the Dodgers slugger. But Ohtani knows emotions will likely flow more freely when the Dodgers play a two-game series in front of a packed stadium in Anaheim on September 3 and 4.

“I didn’t really feel weird or uncomfortable because it is what it is,” Ohtani said through his interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara. “When I played at the Angels’ house [stadium]then it might have been a slightly different story.”

A number of Angels regulars, including Trout, Taylor Ward, Brandon Drury, Logan O’Hoppe, Zach Neto and Matt Thaiss, made the trip from Tempe. Ohtani, the American League’s most valuable player in 2021 and 2023, said no one expressed any hard feelings toward the two-time star for his departure.

“A lot of guys were here today, so I had to catch up to most of them,” Ohtani said. “They didn’t really make it difficult for me. They were more like congratulations. They are happy for me.”

Ohtani will be relegated to the plate this season as he recovers from Tommy John surgery last September, the second ligament replacement procedure of the right-hander’s career.

Read more: Albert Pujols, in the Angels camp as a guest instructor, aspires to another title: Manager

Ohtani has not yet started a throwing program as he recovers from elbow surgery, but the hitting portion of his rehabilitation “is officially over,” he said. “Now I just have to get more at-bats, have quality at-bats, be able to see the ball and get my timing down.”

Ohtani had reached base in seven consecutive at-bats before striking out on a 95 mph fastball from Angels right-hander Chase Silseth in the first inning and looking at a 94 mph fastball for strike three against left-hander Tyler Thomas in the third. . Ohtani flied out in center to Guillermo Zunig in the fifth.

Manager Dave Roberts said Tuesday afternoon that Ohtani would take Wednesday off and play Thursday night, but Ohtani said he planned to play Wednesday, a day game after an evening game.

“Just looking at the whole schedule and the whole balance, I thought it was a good time to go back-to-back,” Ohtani said. “That’s another goal I have to achieve.”

Roberts has now completed a solid spring training with Ohtani, and he continues to marvel at the two-time star’s work ethic and attention to detail in the training room, batting cage and on the practice field. And that’s where Ohtani just focuses on hitting.

“I think you hear things, but until you see it in real life, it’s hard to really wrap your mind around it,” Roberts said. “He is a very focused worker. You hear that, but when you see it in real speed, it’s really fascinating to see how methodical he is, how disciplined he is.

“It’s pretty amazing to see how fast his body moves when he turns and rotates. But we had a chicken wing eating contest and he was there, present. During my morning meetings, he is present, present and laughing along with everyone. So he’s much more fascinating than I probably expected.”

Has the media’s limited access to Ohtani created the illusion that he is more distant or isolated than he actually is?

“Uh… maybe,” Roberts said. “That could be the case, but that is difficult to answer. All I know is that it has been great for us when he is working and talking to his teammates in the clubhouse.”

The Dodgers’ media contingent has expanded this season with about 20 to 30 Japanese reporters covering Ohtani daily, but they aren’t just here to monitor Ohtani’s movements.

They’re also here to take on Japanese right-hander Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who signed the largest contract ever awarded to a pitcher — 12 years and $325 million — before throwing a big league pitch.

“It really feels different,” Roberts said, when asked how the coverage of this team compares to the star-studded clubs of the past. “I think, to be quite honest, you’ve brought in a whole country, essentially another continent. You brought two superstars from Japan.

Read more: Dodgers’ Yoshinobu Yamamoto says tipping is “not really a big concern” for him

“So as far as media goes, I mean, it’s two to three times what we’ve ever had. And I think it’s just great for our game. They’re great athletes and great men, so it’s definitely very different than anything we’ve ever seen.

Rehabilitation report

Walker Buehler, the former top prospect who is recovering from his second Tommy John surgery, isn’t expected to be activated until May at the earliest, but Roberts said the “hope” is the right-hander will make one Cactus League start before the team breaks camp.

Emmet Sheehan, who went 4-1 with a 4.92 ERA in 13 games as a rookie last season, has been slowed by a sore shoulder and won’t pitch in Cactus League games, opening the door for Gavin Stone or Ryan Yarbrough to take over rotation to win spots. Sheehan, who was out for a week, has started throwing again, but there is no timetable for his return.

Short hops

Dodgers righthander Bobby Miller looked sharp in his scoreless three-inning start Tuesday night, giving up two hits, striking out one and walking one. Relievers Blake Treinen and Evan Phillips pitched scoreless innings for the Dodgers. … Max Muncy left the game after being hit in the knee by a pitch in the sixth inning, but Roberts says he was OK and expected to play Wednesday. … The Dodgers acquired 25-year-old utility infielder Andre Lipcius from the Detroit Tigers for money considerations and added him to their 40-man roster. Lipcius was a third-round pick of the Tigers out of Tennessee in 2019 and hit .266 with 38 home runs, 88 doubles and 212 RBIs in four minor league seasons. He played in 13 games for Detroit last season and hit .286 with a home run and a double. … Backup catcher Austin Barnes was left out of Tuesday night’s game due to back tightness, but the injury is not believed to be serious.

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This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.

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