Ohtani fans 5, shows heat in 1st mound outing of spring 

Courtesy of Los Angeles Angels
Los Angeles Angels starter Shohei Ohtani pitches against the Oakland Athletics in an exhibition game Friday in Mesa, Ariz.

MESA, Ariz. — Right-hander Shohei Ohtani got five outs in his first mound appearance of the spring. What made the outing so promising was all of the outs came on strikeouts, and the pitches he used to do it.

Ohtani, aiming this year for his first major league win since his Rookie of the Year season in 2018, allowed three hits and one earned run in 1⅔ innings of the Los Angeles Angels’ 7-3 exhibition game win over the Oakland Athletics on Friday.

Ohtani hit 161 kph on the speed gun and had an effective splitter before coming out of the game after surpassing a preset pitch count of 40. The crowd in the A’s spring camp stadium gave him a round of applause as he left the field.

“It was good that I was able to reach the pitch count, and throw in a situation with runners on base that you only get in a real game,” said Ohtani, who threw 42 pitches.

Ohtani made a splash in his rookie year as a rare two-way player, but did not pitch in 2019 after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow and being limited to batting. In the truncated 2020 season, he made just two mound appearances and went 0-1 with a 37.80 earned run average.

Pitching in an exhibition game for the first time since 2018, Ohtani started off by striking out the leadoff hitter looking, and also fanned No. 3 hitter Matt Olson with a 161-kph fastball. A walk put runners on first and second with two outs, but he ended the inning by striking out Mitch Moreland, who went down swinging at a nasty splitter.

In the second inning, the A’s scored a run on a pair of doubles, but Ohtani got the first two outs, both on strikeouts, before ending his day.

“My fastball was good, and my splitter had especially good movement,” Ohtani said. “That was the best thing about it.”

On Wednesday, Ohtani hit his first home run of the spring, a towering two-run shot over the center field fence against the Texas Rangers.