With his season as a pitcher over, Los Angeles Angels’ Shohei Ohtani is focusing on hitting, and he’s already on pace to hit 40 home runs and 20 doubles for the second time since 2021.
Ohtani started in the No. 2 spot in the lineup and went 1-for-3 with two walks, two strikeouts and a stolen base against the Oakland Athletics on Thursday (April 4) at LeCentral Coliseum in Oakland, California, USA.
After going 0-for-3 with a walk in Game 3, Ohtani was held hitless in this game. His season batting average dropped from 0.306 to 0.304 and his OPS dropped slightly from 1.071 to 1.066.
Ohtani hadn’t added a home run in 10 games since hitting his 44th on May 24 against the Cincinnati Reds, but he reached the 20-steal plateau with one stolen base on the day. It was his second 40-homer, 20-steal season in as many years after his 46-homer, 26-steal year in 2021.
Ohtani also became the first Asian slugger to reach the 20-homer, 20-steal plateau this season. The San Diego Padres’ Ha-Sung Kim, who stole his 30th and 31st bases on the day, is three home runs away from the record.
According to MLB.com, the official website of Major League Baseball, Ohtani is the eighth player in history to hit 40 home runs and 20 stolen bases in a single season more than once. While the major leagues have a long and storied history, not every player in the game has hit 40 homers and 20 doubles.
In his first at-bat, Ohtani drew a walk and failed to score or advance on a wild pitch, and in his second at-bat, he was stranded when he grounded out to the first baseman.
It wasn’t until his third at-bat that he made amends. With one out in the top of the fifth, Ohtani drew a walk off Adrian Martinez after a five-pitch at-bat and stole second base on a Randall Grichuk single, his 20th stolen base. However, he was unable to score on Grichuk’s grounder.
Ohtani struck out in his next two at-bats and had to settle for reaching first base on two walks, as the A’s fell 6-10 and completed a three-game sweep of Oakland. His season record is 64-73.
In fact, Ohtani’s health isn’t perfect right now. The Angels announced, “Ohtani has been diagnosed with a torn medial collateral ligament (UCL) in his right elbow. He will not pitch for the remainder of the season,” the organization announced. While surgery has not been scheduled, it is unlikely that he will be able to perform his two-hitter duties for the remainder of the season.
Earlier in the day, Ohtani started the first game of a 2023 Major League Baseball (MLB) doubleheader against the Cincinnati Reds at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California, USA, and left the game after 1⅓ innings when he felt something was wrong with his body. His fastball velocity was down and his pitches were shaky, and he didn’t look like his usual self.
After his last start against the San Francisco Giants on Tuesday, he hadn’t pitched in two weeks for the same reason, so fans were understandably worried. In addition, a nail injury in July, blisters on his fingers, and a finger cramp early last month were all “yellow flags” on Ohtani’s health.
As speculation over Ohtani’s injury continued, the Angels organization stepped in to explain. “At the time of the hand cramp (earlier this month), the club suggested that he get an MRI, but Ohtani and his agent, Nez Valero, refused because they felt it was unnecessary. They said it was (just) a finger cramp and that they didn’t need to take a picture,” Angels president Perry Minassian told local media outlets on March 27.
“At the time, I didn’t realize there was a problem with my elbow. I don’t regret not getting an MRI,” he said, adding, “I’ve built trust with them for three years. The club respected the player’s wishes, and you can’t force a player to do something he doesn’t want to do.”
For now, Ohtani is continuing his season as a ‘hitter’. With the decision to undergo surgery still undecided, the pressure to prove his worth as an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season is balanced by the responsibility to remain a mainstay on the team 메이저놀이터.