Shohei Ohtani's first appearance on the mound with pitch clock goes smoothly
Shohei Ohtani knew coming into spring training that one of his biggest challenges would be the pitch clock.
The Angels' two-way star made his first appearance as a pitcher in a spring game Tuesday. He threw 2 1/3 scoreless innings against the Oakland Athletics, striking out two and walking two, without a clock violation in his 34 pitches.
Whether he could pitch within the allotted time limit — 15 seconds between pitches with the bases empty, 20 seconds with runners on base and 30 seconds between batters — was not a big concern for anyone around the team.
What manager Phil Nevin did consider was how the time limit would affect the intimidation factor Ohtani has on opposing batters.
“When you’re standing in the box and Nolan Ryan’s pacing around the mound,” Nevin said Sunday morning, the day after the Angels' first spring training game, “you’re like, ‘Oh, hell, what’s he going to do next to me,’ right? I think Shohei has that presence about him.
“The quicker those guys work and the more a hitter can be in the box and not uncomfortable, that may change a few things because he has that intimidating look to him and the way he kind of moves around the mound. He still has that, that's not gonna take that away, but it will change a little bit and how he goes about it.”
After his first game experience with the clock, Ohtani acknowledged that he’s going to continue trying to adjust to it.
“It’s hard for me to say if I was overwhelming [hitters],” Ohtani said in Japanese. “I think the changes will be the same for everyone. Today, I was on time. I do think I had some feelings that I had to rush. There’s still time [in spring training], and the more I get used to it, I think I’ll be able to throw with better feel.”
Nevin and pitching coach Matt Wise said Ohtani was productive and did well with the pitch clock. Wise added that there were some points Ohtani probably had more time than he thought he did.
Ohtani started working with the PitchCom device this spring in order to call his own games. That saves time on the number of signals he gives a catcher to get to the pitch he wants to throw. He thought the first time doing that in a game went smoothly, as did Nevin and Wise.
Ohtani's goal coming into this start was to make all his pitches and he was content with them. He hoped to get his velocity to 100 miles per hour on at least one pitch in the second inning, but was satisfied with the 98 it topped out at.
Ohtani will play in the World Baseball Classic with Japan, whose first game is March 9. Ohtani said it hasn’t been decided which game he will start. Although the WBC will not use pitch clocks or allow the use of PitchCom, he will try to continue to pitch a little faster while he’s away.
“I do think it was a big thing to be able to try it out once before leaving,” he said.
Fujinami vs. Ohtani
Ohtani was matched up against a familiar face Tuesday, the A’s starting Shintaro Fujinami on the mound.
It was the first time the two had pitched on the same field since 2014, when they played in the Japan All-Star Series.
Ohtani said he did not get to see Fujinami pitch and he didn’t bat against the right-hander.
“I’m sure I’ll be in the batter’s box when we face them in a [regular-season] game, so I’m looking forward to that,” Ohtani said.
The Angels beat the A’s 11-5 at Hohokam Stadium.
Logan O’Hoppe hit a two-run home run in the fourth inning and Jake Lamb hit a three-run shot in the fifth. Kyren Paris drove in five on a triple, walk and double.
Right-hander Chase Silseth is scheduled to start Wednesday against the Milwaukee Brewers.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.