Shohei Ohtani gives Angels fans glimpse of two-way potential in Ruthian performance

ANAHEIM, Calif. — The 43,904 fans attending the Angels' home opener Monday night expressed their appreciation for Shohei Ohtani in a way perhaps never before seen in a major-league stadium.

His translator, Ippei Mizuhara, received an enthusiastic ovation — by far the loudest when the Angels' trainers and auxiliary personnel were introduced.

When Ohtani himself was announced as one of the reserves, he received even louder cheers. Louder than those for manager Mike Scioscia. Louder than those for Albert Pujols. Louder than for every other Angel except Mike Trout.

PHOTOS: Tracking Ohtani's rookie season

When Ohtani played his first home game Tuesday night as a designated hitter, the 35,007 in attendance found a reason to cheer beyond the Japanese rookie's mere presence.

In the bottom of the first inning — in just his sixth plate appearance — Ohtani hit his first major-league home run, a three-run drive capping a six-run outburst in an eventual 13-2 rout of the Indians.

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The home run swing. (Getty Images)

That homer was the first of three hits for Ohtani, who also lined two singles in going 3 for 4 with two runs scored. He struck out his other time up.

The 23-year old is the first player in 97 years to earn a victory as a pitcher (he beat the A's in Oakland on Sunday), then hit a home run in his next game as a non-pitcher. Babe Ruth accomplished that feat for the Yankees in 1921.

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"Shohei put on a display of the type of talent he has. He showed the power and the ability to square up a baseball. He had a great night for us," said Scioscia, who added that Ohtani will serve as the designated hitter in Wednesday's series finale against Corey Kluber, who won his second American League Cy Young Award last year.

Scioscia believes Ohtani's performance Tuesday could prove pivotal to his development as a hitter.

"What's going to help his batting is to square some balls up and hit them hard," he said. "I think that's what he needs to do. I think he's very confident. He knows his talent. He just needs to turn it into productivity, and that's going to take a couple of at-bats where he's hitting the ball hard. I know he wants to contribute at the plate."


After the season opener in Oakland, when Ohtani pulled the balls he hit in going 1 for 5 with a strikeout, the left-handed hitter made adjustments that sent his home run to right-center field and his second single to center.

"Pitchers here throw really differently compared to Japan," Ohtani said through Mizuhara. "One of the things I can do is watch videos and read scouting reports. That's one of the ways I can prepare myself and improve."

That diligence has impressed Scioscia.

"Mentally, he's way ahead of where you expect a guy in his first year in major-league baseball to be," he said. "He's very analytical. He has terrific poise. He just needs the practical experience to get out there and start to understand hitting off of major-league pitching and pitching to major-league hitters. He's handling everything very well."

The game was tied 2-2 in the first when Ohtani came to bat with the bases loaded against starter Josh Tomlin, a right-hander who keeps hitters off-balance despite a fastball that failed to surpass 88 mph Tuesday.

Tomlin started off Ohtani with two 84 mph cutters. Ohtani took the first one inside, and then fouled the second one down the right-field line.

Tomlin responded with two 74 mph curves. Ohtani swung at and missed the first one, but the second bounced past catcher Roberto Perez for a wild pitch that scored Kole Calhoun, giving LA a 3-2 lead.

"That made me feel more comfortable since we scored," Ohtani said through Mizuhara.

After fouling off another 85 mph cutter, Ohtani propelled Tomlin's 74 mph curve 397 feet into the first row of the stands in right-center field.

"When I hit it," Ohtani said through his translator, "I thought it was going to be off the wall so I was running hard."

When Ohtani returned to the dugout, his new teammates introduced to him an American tradition for rookies who hit their first home run: the silent treatment. Ohtani responded by giving phantom high-fives before going to starting pitcher Garrett Richards, pulling on his warmup jacket, hopping up and down and smiling.

Richards turned around and, with a big smile, hugged Ohtani, cueing the rest of the Angels to congratulate him by circling around him and patting him on the back. The rookie then walked to the top step of the dugout and doffed his batting helmet in response to his first curtain call.

In the third, Ohtani lined a single off second baseman Jason Kipnis' glove. In the fifth, he took a 90 mph fastball on the inside corner from reliever Dan Otero to strike out on three pitches. In the eighth, the rookie lined a 95 mph fastball from Zach McAllister into center field and came home on Rene Rivera's two-run home run.

"Obviously, after getting my first hit out of the way, I felt more comfortable and relaxed," Ohtani said through Mizuhara. "Also, everyone around me in the lineup was doing a good job, too."

Ohtani experienced another American baseball tradition after game. As a television reporter was asking him a question on the field, Calhoun sneaked behind the rookie and dumped ice water on him.

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Only his teammates could cool off Ohtani on Tuesday. (Getty Images)

"I've actually seen that on TV before," Ohtani said through his translator. "It finally happened to me."