Shohei Ohtani will be in the starting lineup Sunday afternoon for the Los Angeles Angels against the Seattle Mariners in Anaheim, Calif., likely hitting in the No. 2 spot in the order.
Ohtani has hit second three times in the past week, including each of the past two games, an effort by manager Joe Maddon to spark Ohtani’s bat by hitting him in front of Mike Trout. He’s hit primarily No. 5 in the order this season.
Ohtani was 0 for 5 with two RBIs Saturday in a 16-3 romp over the Mariners, and overall this season he’s hitting just .178/.272/.386 with five homers and 18 RBIs. The Angels simply would like Ohtani to regain the form he had in 2018, when he won the American League Rookie of the Year award after hitting .285 with 22 homers and 61 RBIs. Or in 2019, when he hit .286 with 18 homers and 62 RBIs.
Ohtani also was 4-2 with a 3.31 ERA in 10 starts on the mound in 2018 before an elbow injury resulted in Tommy John surgery. He didn’t pitch at all in 2019, and this year made just two ineffective starts before being shut down again because of a forearm strain.
That forearm strain will keep Ohtani, 26, from playing the field this year, but that could change next season. Part of Ohtani’s offensive struggles, Maddon believes, is a result of his stagnation when the team is in the field.
Ohtani, who played 62 games in the outfield while playing in the Japanese League, has been practicing in the outfield and at first base.
“If you’re a young man like that and all you’re going to get to do is swing the bat, that’s going to get kind of boring,” Maddon said. “I’d like to see him diversify a little bit. I think just by moving around like that, practicing like that’s going to actually help them in the batter’s box.
“He does not need to just sit around and hit. He needs to move around a little bit, and you can see how well he does move around. The ball into the right-center field gap, he runs so perfectly and easily. It’s fascinating.”
Like the Angels, the Mariners are struggling to stay in the playoff picture, but they are optimistic about the future thanks to their talented young players, including center fielder Kyle Lewis, the club’s No. 3 hitter. Lewis went 0 for 3 Saturday against the Angels and, despite going hitless, has hit safely in 11 of his past 13 games, during which time he’s hit .378 (17 for 45). Overall, Lewis is among the league leaders in batting average (.339), on-base percentage (.428) and runs scored (27), and is a leading candidate to win the American League Rookie of the Year.
“The thing that sticks out for me more than anything with Kyle is he’s not satisfied,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “He comes in every day and has a plan and is working on things. Even in batting practice, some guys get caught up with what their BP looks like or how far they’re hitting it. He’s very structured and disciplined in what he’s trying to do. It’s a really mature approach for a young player.”
Griffin Canning (0-3, 4.88 ERA) is scheduled to start for the Angels looking for his first victory of the season. Justin Dunn (2-1, 5.57 ERA) will start for Seattle.
–Field Level Media