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Angels’ Ohtani Pitches into 3rd in Spring Debut; Off to WBC

AP Photo/Matt York
Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani (17) throws against the Oakland Athletics during the first inning of a spring training baseball game, Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023, in Mesa, Ariz.

MESA, Ariz. (AP) — Shohei Ohtani had no issues with his pitches or the new clock in his first spring training outing this year, his only one for the Los Angeles Angels before he joins Japan for the World Baseball Classic.

Ohtani pitched 2 1/3 hitless innings against Oakland on Tuesday, striking out two and walking two. The two-way star, beginning his last season before he can become a free agent, did not bat.

“It’s always good to get the first game under my belt,” Ohtani said through translator Ippei Mizuhara. “The main goal today was to feel out all my pitches. I felt pretty good with all of them.”

“I wanted to ease in. I’m satisfied,” he added.

Ohtani, 15-9 with a 2.33 ERA and 219 strikeouts last season, is slated to start the March 30 opener at Oakland.

He reached 98 mph against the Athletics. He walked Jesús Aguilar in the second and got out of the inning when Liván Soto grounded into a double play. Ohtani walked his last batter, Ryan Noda, and Luke Murphy relieved.

Ohtani used PitchCom to help his tempo.

“I was calling my own pitches,” Ohtani said. “That was just today, I don’t know what’s going to happen.”

Ohtani will head back to Japan to prepare for his nation’s WBC opener against China on March 9.

His mound opponent on Tuesday was Shintaro Fujinami, a 28-year-old right-hander who signed a $3.25 million, one-year contract after 10 seasons with the Central League’s Hanshin Tigers.

The duo hadn’t faced each other since Ohtani played for the Pacific League’s Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters. Ohtani, because he wasn’t batting in the game, said he didn’t see much of Fujinami on the mound.

Fujinami, who went two innings, was paying attention to his mound opponent, he said.

“I know Japanese fans were looking forward to us pitching against each other,” Fujinami said through a translator. “I thought it was good entertainment (for them).”

AP Photo/Matt York
Los Angeles Angels pitcher Shohei Ohtani (17) greets Oakland Athletics pitcher Shintaro Fujinami (11) prior to a spring training baseball game, Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023, in Mesa, Ariz.