Shohei Ohtani has been called Japan’s version of Babe Ruth, because he can hit and pitch. But, to truly be like the Great Bambino, Ohtani needs to learn to play in the field. It would also be helpful on the days he pitches so that the Angels wouldn’t lose his bat if he was to be pulled from a start.
Two weeks ago the Angels used Ohtani in the outfield for a couple of innings, marking the first time he has played in the field during a major league game. Ohtani did not get a chance to make a play in the field, but I’m sure he could have done so if the ball was hit his way. Angels manager Joe Maddon insists that Ohtani only was used in the field as an emergency situation, but I think the Halos should have Ohtani work in the outfield or first base.
If Ohtani was able to play the field it would open up so many possibilities for the Angels and give more flexibility to Maddon. If Ohtani happens to be pitching and has to taken out of the game due to ineffectiveness or pitch count, the Angels could keep his bat in the lineup. Also if there was a day the Angels wanted to use Ohtani to pinch hit, they could keep him his bat and Ohtani could hit more than one time.
Now the biggest argument and fear against having Shohei Ohtani play in the field is that it will increase his chances of getting injured. This is a valid point and is probably one of the biggest reasons the Angels have been in no rush to get Ohtani on the field for defense. My counter to this notion of Ohtani getting hurt while playing the field is that this idea of him playing the field is not one the Angels should employ often, just in certain situations when it would be advantageous for the team for him to do so.
There are three such cases that i think would warrant Ohtani playin the field:
- When Ohtani has been taken out of the game as a pitcher, it would be nice to keep his bat in the lineup and not have to constantly pinch hit for his spot in the order. This would probably constitute three to five innings in the field every five to six days.
- The second scenario is when Ohtani is not in the starting lineup and he is used as a pinch hitter when he has not started a game. This again would probably amount to three innings in the field at most.
- The final reason for Ohtani to play the field is in an emergency situation like the one that precipitated him to play the field for the first time a few weeks back. This will happen very rarely and will probably result in playing the field for an inning or two once in a blue moon.
If Ohtani were to play the field and get hurt, the naysayers would be all over Maddon for a decision to play the two-way phenom on defense, but I think the good outweighs the bad. Especially since Ohtani is only 26-years old and despite the elbow and arm issues he has had over the past couple of seasons he has shown to be very resilient.
Ohtani was hit in the elbow by a pitch in Sunday’s game against Seattle which stopped him from making his Monday night start against the Rays. However, Ohtani will still be in the line-up as the designated hitter despite the elbow soreness. The kid has guile for sure which is great to see.
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So to the Angels front office and manager Joe Maddon–have Shohei Ohtani learn a position or two and then use him in the before-mentioned situations to give the Angels an extra edge.
Every little bit could help make a difference in a few games which may help the Angels finally get back to the postseason, which is the ultimate goal.