Thu, Apr 05, 2018 - Page 16 News List

Japanese marvel Ohtani blasts first home run in LA

AFP, LOS ANGELES

Japanese prodigy Shohei Ohtani on Tuesday blasted a home run on his home debut for the Los Angeles Angels, 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.

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

“Not just my teammates, but the hitting coaches, all the staff, they all help me out, make me feel comfortable so my success is due to them too,” Ohtani said, who was given a soaking by teammates 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. “This is the two-way player. The genius born in Japan shocked the entire US.”

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, the New York Yankees and the 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.

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

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