During his first start of the season against the White Sox, Ohtani allowed one earned run on two hits while walking five and striking out seven in 4.1 innings pitched. The outing was historic, as Ohtani became the first player in over 45 seasons to pitch while hitting for himself as the designated hitter.
It didn’t take long for Ohtani to impress, in the top of the first inning he threw MLB’s fastest pitch (through April 4), a 101 MPH fastball. In the bottom of that same inning, Ohtani hit the league’s hardest ball (through April 4), a 115 MPH home run.
That type of performance has built up the anticipation for Ohtani’s pitching return in Anaheim. He’s the only player in recent decades to show this type of skill in two facets of the game at baseball’s highest level.
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Thankfully Ohtani’s blister hasn’t kept him out of the batting order as a designated hitter. In 54 plate appearances, Ohtani is slashing .333/.370/.706 with four home runs and 12 RBI (tied for team lead). He also ranks in MLB’s top-10 for a number of Statcast and advanced metrics categories this season.
The key for the Angels will be to find a way to keep Ohtani healthy. Recurring blisters for a pitcher are tricky, but it’s better than having any type of structural injury which has limited Ohtani to just three starts since his rookie year in 2018. Any pitcher, regardless of what level of baseball they’ve played at, will tell you how a blister on their throwing hand affects their performance.
Manager Joe Maddon has emphasized a ‘no limits’ approach for Ohtani, saying the team will not make predetermined assumptions on his preparations as a hitter and pitcher. Instead, the Halos will closely monitor Ohtani as the season moves along.
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If he continues his current offensive trends and is able to produce at a high-level for 10-15 starts this season, I think Shohei Ohtani is a no-doubt favorite to win the AL MVP.