Japanese ace Ohtani blasts first home run


LOS ANGELES: Japanese prodigy Shohei Ohtani blasted a home run on his home debut for the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday (Wednesday in Manila), just two days after pitching his team to victory over the Oakland Athletics.

The 23-year-old two-way star brought Angel Stadium to its feet after belting a three-run shot out of right field as the Angels romped to a 13-2 win over the Cleveland Indians.

Ohtani’s homer came off a curveball from Indians starter Josh Tomlin to cap a six-run first inning by the Angels.

Angels players pretended to ignore a baffled-looking Ohtani as he returned to the dugout ready to celebrate, before they turned around en masse to embrace the rising star.

Shohei Ohtani No. 17 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim looks on in the on deck circle during the first inning of a game against the Cleveland Indians at Angel Stadium on Wednesday in Anaheim, California. AFP PHOTO

“Obviously it feels really, really good,” Ohtani said afterwards through an interpreter.

“Not just my team-mates, but the hitting coaches, all the staff, they all help me out, make me feel comfortable so my success is due to them too,” added Ohtani, who was given a soaking by team-mates as he gave the on-field interview.

Ohtani’s dramatic debut was greeted with delight by Japanese media.

“Splendid three-run homer. Sho Time!” Sankei Sports said in its headline, punning on Ohtani’s first name.

“Slugger Ohtani made his extravagant debut at Angeles Stadium,” the sports daily said in its online site. “This is the two-way player. The genius born in Japan shocked the entire US,” it added.

Ohtani had struggled during spring training for the Angels, prompting some observers to question whether he was ready to make his major league debut.

However he has assuaged those concerns during his performances since the opening of the season.

Ohtani had already recorded a career hit in his Major League Baseball debut last week.

On Sunday he tossed a three hitter over six innings to set up a 7-4 win over the Athletics in his first start on the mound.

Ohtani was signed by the Angels after resisting overtures from several leading MLB franchises including the Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees and San Francisco Giants.

The two-way phenom has earned comparisons to Babe Ruth for his ability to pitch and hit, and led the Nippon Ham Fighters to their first championship in 10 years in 2016.

Nippon Ham Fighters manager Hideki Kuriyama told reporters on Tuesday: “He can hit when everyone expects him. That’s the way Shohei is.”



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