Los Angeles Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani has been one of the most intriguing players in all of Major League Baseball from the moment he signed in Anaheim in 2018. However, under Joe Maddon in 2021, he has become must-watch television every single night.
Monday was one of those extra special nights when Ohtani was tabbed as the starting pitcher while also batting second in the Angels order against the Texas Rangers. Ohtani made history by being the first pitcher in nearly 100 years to make a start on the mound while leading the major leagues in home runs.
Offensively, Ohtani drew a walk and scored a run before he ever threw a pitch. However, he didn’t get off to the best of starts on the mound. In the bottom of the first, he allowed three walks, two hits, and four runs, including his first extra base hit of the season.
What could’ve been a disaster quickly turned around to one of the most dominant stretches of Ohtani’s career. Maddon applauded him for maintaining his composure in a difficult situation, according to Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic:
“When he goes through those moments, you just got to fasten your seatbelt and watch,” Maddon said. “You guys watch closely; he never panicked. When things are going poorly, his demeanor didn’t change. He knew he had to make an adjustment, so there wasn’t any emotional rift there that got in the way of him becoming better during the course of that game.”
From the start of the second inning, Ohtani put all concerns behind him, and threw a gem of a performance for four more innings. He allowed just one hit, zero walks or runs, and struck out eight batters in innings 2-5. He also was incredible at the plate, going 2-for-3 with two RBI’s, a walk, and three runs scored.
Maddon said he chose to let Ohtani hit and pitch — and let him stay in the game through a horrible first inning — because that’s what he was brought to the majors to do.
“He came here for a reason,” Maddon said. “He was signed for a reason to do two things, as far as I can remember. I was sitting across the table with him during the conversation with the Cubs. So why would you go out, recruit the guy, bring him in for a specific purpose and not permit him to try to do that? It makes no sense to me. … That’s what he signed up for.”
Ohtani has all of the tools to be one of the best players in baseball. Despite some struggles with command and throwing strikes, he remains an electrifying pitcher capable of truly great things.
On Monday, he showed all of his best and worst characteristics, and proved exactly why the Angels were right to unleash him this season.
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