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Ohtani: The real work is to come

USA TODAY Sports
Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani (17) walks back to the locker room during the sixth inning against the Oakland Athletics at RingCentral Coliseum in Oakland, California.

OAKLAND, Calif. — Los Angeles Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani further secured his place in baseball history on Wednesday in a game against the Oakland Athletics, when he reached 166 innings to qualify among the leading pitchers of the American League this season. He had already qualified among the season’s leading hitters, and so became the first player in the World Series era, which started in 1903, to do both.

After the game, Ohtani spoke to Japanese and U.S. reporters about the season. The following are excerpts from that exchange.

Question: You have achieved various historic accomplishments, but what made the biggest impression on you?

Shohei Ohtani:I can’t answer at the moment. I’ve forgotten most of what happened.

Question: Having finished the season with 166 innings, you passed the 162 needed to qualify for the league leader as a pitcher. Did you aim for that?

Ohtani: Well, I usually don’t mind or worry about numerical targets. But you never know until you start something whether it is what you should go for.

Question: Your pitching improved. How satisfied are you with it?

Ohtani: First of all, it was good that I was able to pitch consistently every game. I think that is the biggest thing. I hope to do that again next year and develop even more.

Question: As for hitting, you hit fewer home runs. You also struck out less, but you had an increase in hits.

Ohtani: Before the season, I thought of, like, playing with a batting average of about .300. The thing was then how many homers I would be able to hit. My hits often died near the wall, so I think I can have both more hits and more homers if I can improve that area.

Question: The ball didn’t seem to carry for you. Was there impact because of the ball itself?

Ohtani: The ball kind of had a big impact on hits to the opposite field. I felt strongly that balls I hit that way with good spin didn’t carry well. On the other hand, I didn’t feel much difference when I pulled the ball. If I had strength in my swings to add distance the opposite way, I think I would’ve been able to have better numbers.

Question: What would you do if manager Hideki Kuriyama asked you to play with the Samurai Japan team at the 2023 World Baseball Classic as both a hitter and pitcher?

Ohtani: I would be honored. The most important thing is whether I will be in perfect condition to play. I would take a break to reset myself, and then think about the possibility.

Question: You are paid the most of all players who are eligible for annual salary arbitration.

Ohtani: They say the more you get paid, the better you need to play. So I want to do my best next year.

Question: You qualified among the leaders as a hitter and a pitcher. Should this be the basic expectation for you?

Ohtani: Well, of course now I know that I can reach both numbers if I can be out there regularly. Having said that, frankly speaking, it is not the kind of thing I should go for by trying to do too much. I don’t think it’s something I should aim for by getting away from my pace or straining myself physically.

Question: Do you think the Angels have a chance to make the playoffs?

Ohtani: Yes. There are players who have emerged this year. If everyone plays well, I think we have a good chance to make it.

Question: What does the team need, and need to do to win?

Ohtani: I think they expect us to achieve results like last year’s or this year’s, and we’ll build our team based on that. So if we can’t play well, things will change or come out differently. I think that what I can do for myself is to repeat the results of last year and this year, or put up better numbers.

Question: What do you expect from yourself next season?

Ohtani: I want to win first and foremost, so I will do my best to play with that mindset, well, this is where the real work comes.