Los Angeles Angels' Shohei Ohtani to start at pitcher, bat leadoff for AL in MLB All-Star Game

DENVER -- Shohei Ohtani, the Los Angeles Angels' transcendent two-way star, will start on the mound and bat leadoff for the American League All-Stars in Tuesday's MLB All-Star Game from Coors Field, a fitting tribute to his nearly unprecedented first-half performance.

Ohtani, who will oppose Max Scherzer of the Washington Nationals, was voted by the fans as the starting designated hitter and was voted by the players as one of five starting pitchers. Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash, who will steer the AL group, said he "took that to heart" in making the decision to start Ohtani.

"This is what the fans wanna see," Cash said. "It's personally what I wanna see."

Ohtani, the only player selected to both pitch and hit in an All-Star Game, headlined the Home Run Derby lineup on Monday night, but was eliminated by Nationals star Juan Soto after an exhilarating first round that included two tiebreakers and a combined 61 home runs, 10 of which traveled 500-plus feet.

New York Mets slugger Pete Alonso eventually won the event, becoming the third back-to-back champ.

Cash said he "begged" Major League Baseball to tweak a longstanding rule and basically list Ohtani as both a pitcher and a DH for Tuesday's lineup, which would allow Cash to insert a new DH when Ohtani comes out of the game rather than continually use a pinch-hitter as Ohtani's spot in the lineup comes back around.

"I was not expecting to be chosen as a pitcher at all," Ohtani said through his interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, who will also serve as his catcher for the Home Run Derby. "It's a huge honor."

Ohtani is the second Japanese player to start an All-Star Game, joining Hideo Nomo, who represented the Los Angeles Dodgers while starting for the National League in 1995. As a hitter, Ohtani is batting .279/.364/.698 with four triples, 12 stolen bases and a major league-leading 33 home runs, already a single-season record for a Japanese-born player. As a pitcher, he boasts a 3.49 ERA with 87 strikeouts and 35 walks in 67 innings.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, who will lead the NL team, was asked whether he had believed Ohtani would be able to juggle both roles at that level.

"We did," Roberts said. "We wanted him."

"So did we!" Cash added, drawing a laugh from the crowd that gathered around the makeshift news conference near Coors Field.

Starting Ohtani allows MLB to fully showcase a man who has arguably become baseball's most captivating star, but it also avoids the logistical difficulties of asking him to warm up in the middle of a game that he is already hitting in, a circumstance Ohtani is not accustomed to.

"Dave and I both have responsibilities to protect not just our players but all players," Cash said. "And I think it made the most sense in the availability of it to do something that he has already done, rather than asking him to hit and come in later in the game [to pitch]."

Ohtani will be followed in the AL lineup, respectively, by Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Boston Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts, New York Yankees right fielder Aaron Judge, Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers, Blue Jays second baseman Marcus Semien, Kansas City Royals catcher Salvador Perez, Blue Jays left fielder Teoscar Hernandez and Baltimore Orioles center fielder Cedric Mullins.

Roberts' NL lineup begins with San Diego Padres shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. batting leadoff and Dodgers first baseman Max Muncy batting second while serving as the DH. They're followed, respectively, by St. Louis Cardinals third baseman Nolan Arenado, Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman, Cincinnati Reds right fielder Nick Castellanos, Reds left fielder Jesse Winker, Philadelphia Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto and Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Adam Frazier.

Ohtani was the first pitcher to ever compete in the Home Run Derby and is already the first player in baseball history to combine at least 20 home runs with 80 strikeouts in the same season, a feat that not even Babe Ruth accomplished. In Ruth's only two seasons as a two-way player, in 1918 and 1919, he combined for 40 home runs, 13 stolen bases and 70 strikeouts. Ohtani could surpass all three of those numbers within the next few weeks.

"Obviously I've never seen him live, but I've seen a lot of footage and heard a lot of stories and read about him a lot," Ohtani said of Ruth. "If you're a baseball player, obviously you've heard his name before. He's a legendary figure, and it's a huge honor to be compared to somebody like that. All I can do is try my best and see how my season and career pans out."