<
>

Los Angeles Angels' Shohei Ohtani to get Opening Day start at both pitcher, designated hitter

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Shohei Ohtani, the two-way sensation who is coming off a unanimous American League MVP selection, will start Opening Day for the Los Angeles Angels, manager Joe Maddon said Friday.

Maddon made the announcement just minutes after informing Ohtani of the assignment in a brief meeting. It was hardly a surprise, given Ohtani's excellent 2021 season and his standing in an Angels rotation that is again littered with questions.

"It just tastes right, feels right, is right," Maddon said.

Ohtani's Opening Day start -- against the visiting Houston Astros on April 7 -- will come with him also serving as the team's designated hitter. A new rule that was recently agreed to by Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association will allow Ohtani to continue to hit in the lineup even after he exits as a pitcher.

The 2021 season represented the first time in five years that Ohtani had pitched a full season, and he steadily improved as it progressed. The right-hander from Japan finished with a 9-2 record and a 3.18 ERA in 23 starts, striking out 156 and walking 44 in 130⅓ innings. Those numbers -- along with a .965 OPS, 46 home runs, 100 RBIs, 26 stolen bases and eight triples -- made him an easy choice for the AL MVP Award.

Ohtani, 27, joins a six-man rotation with Noah Syndergaard, who has made only two pitching appearances over the past two seasons because of Tommy John surgery, and will include an assortment of young pitchers, most notably Patrick Sandoval, Jose Suarez and potentially Reid Detmers. Michael Lorenzen, who previously aspired to be a two-way player, will also be part of the mix.

But Ohtani was the easy choice to lead them.

"It was, 'Well if I have to,' something like that," Maddon said of Ohtani's reaction to the news. "He's self-deprecating. He's got that kind of sense of humor. He's a good man."