- The Washington Times - Monday, April 5, 2021

Even the most experienced baseball watcher would find it hard not to gape at what Shohei Ohtani did in the first inning of Sunday’s Los Angeles Angels game.

Ohtani strode the mound in the top of the first inning, blew 100 mile-per-hour fastballs into his catcher’s mitt and even throttled back to touch 101 mph. Then he grabbed his bat and helmet, strode to the plate and crushed the first pitch he saw — a high fastball he turned on to launch into the right-field seats.

His 101-mph fastball was the fastest pitch by a starter so far this season, and the 115-mph exit velocity off his bat was the hardest hit homer through the first week, too.

The sequence shined a light on what Ohtani could do at this level. He was a two-way star in Japan, but Ohtani became the first starting pitcher to bat second in a major league game since 1903. That’s how manager Joe Maddon plans to use Ohtani this season, making the most of his dual-threat talents.

Ohtani finished 1-for-3 at the plate, with his homer, a lineout to center and a groundout into a well-positioned shift. On the mound, he pitched into the fifth, allowing three runs (one earned) on two hits, five walks and seven strikeouts.

“Don’t you love it?” Angels manager Joe Maddon asked before the game (via the Associated Press). “This was him deciding that he could do this. … When he came over, this is what he wanted to do. This is why he signed up. Everybody clamored for him because of this particular reason, so I think it’s important that we give him this opportunity to do that and see how it plays out.”

Ohtani’s night ended on a scary note, though. He punched out Yoan Moncada with bases loaded in the fifth, which should have ended the inning. But his pitch got by catcher Max Stassi, and the passed ball allowed one run to score when Stassi added a throwing error on his attempt to first.

Then, Joe Abreu collided with Ohtani, who was covering home plate. Ohtani was down for some time and exited the game, but Ohtani said his leg felt “fine.” He’ll be evaluated further Monday, but Ohtani said the collision “wasn’t as bad as it looked.”

Sunday was the first time Ohtani started on the mound and hit for himself since arriving in Los Angeles in 2018. Elbow injuries hampered Ohtani’s pitching time the past two seasons. If Sunday’s performance is any indication, Ohtani may be the do-it-all player this year the Angels hoped for.

“What he did tonight was pretty special, and you’re going to see a lot more of that,” Manager Joe Maddon said postgame (via The New York Times). “It was fun to watch. I think everybody was entertained. That’s what he signed up to do, and you’re going to see more of it.”

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