Shohei Ohtani Could Serve As Closer For Japan In World Baseball Classic
MLB: Oakland Athletics at Los Angeles Angels
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Angels gave Shohei Ohtani the green light to participate in the World Baseball Classic which is set to begin in the middle of Spring Training next year, and the two-way star hinted at a role in which he could be utilized.

After another incredible campaign over the regular season, Ohtani left no doubt that his 2021 performance was no fluke and that his play, which earned him a Most Valuable Player Award, was to be expected. Not to say that statistically, he would require those same numbers to be revered as the most versatile player in all of baseball, but he is the modern-day Babe Ruth, playing in the more difficult era.

Ohtani went 15-9 in 28 starts this season, posting a 2.33 ERA, 2.40 FIP, and a 1.01 WHIP across 166 innings pitched. He elevated his work as a starting pitcher while continuing to pound the ball at the plate in which he slugged 34 home runs and 95 RBI with a .875 on-base plus slugging.

With the WBC approaching, Ohtani was vocal early on about his desire to play, and after a terrific 2022 season, Japan would be much better with him on their roster, via Sarah Valenzuela of the L.A. Times:

Asked if he wanted to play in that first round, Ohtani said: “It could depend in part on whether I start or pitch as a middle reliever or closer. I don’t know if they’ll say I could just hit in the first stage.”

“If I’m a middle reliever or closer, there’s no need to speed up anything. That being said, if I’m going to be a starter … I’ll have to start up early.”

Because the Major League Baseball schedule has the WBC firmly in the heart of the Spring Training ramp-up, it will make it particularly tricky for players playing in the MLB and various pro leagues to coordinate their schedules around Pool play and each round.

But if Ohtani’s usage is properly monitored and he isn’t pushed to his limits or alters his workload, he will be a valuable addition to Japan’s roster.

Shohei Ohtani & Mike Trout finalists for Hank Aaron Award

The brightest spot for the Angels this year was the follow-up performance from Ohtani in his bid for another MVP Award. But the resurgence of Mike Trout following a season-ending injury in 2021 also made headlines.

Because of this, both were named finalists for the 2022 Hank Aaron Award, which is given out to the most outstanding regular-season offensive performer in their respective leagues.

Established in 1999, the Hank Aaron Award is an incredible achievement and to be named a finalist is an honor in itself due to their tier-list of names up for the award. Along with Jose Altuve & Yordan Alvarez of the Houston Astros, Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees, and Julio Rodríguez of the Seattle Mariners, Trout & Ohtani put up gaudy numbers themselves.

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