Maddon supports Ohtani pitching and hitting in All-Star Game

Sports

Los Angeles Angels’ Shohei Ohtani fist-bumps manager Joe Maddon in the dugout before the team’s baseball game against the New York Yankees on Wednesday, June 30, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Fans hoping Los Angeles Angels superstar Shohei Ohtani will pitch and hit in the All-Star Game might just get their wish.

Angels manager Joe Maddon wants Ohtani to do both in the July 13 midsummer classic in Denver and has discussed it with Tampa Bay skipper Kevin Cash, who will manage the American League squad.

Maddon said seeing Ohtani do both as well as participating in the Home Run Derby on July 12 at Coors Field would draw in even non-baseball fans. That is why he is advocating showcasing Ohtani as much as possible.

“The maximum participation of Shohei within limits to me is the right thing to do,” Maddon said before Friday’s game against the Baltimore Orioles. “What else could you possibly want? We have to do it in a manner that is not going to be destructive in some way.

“In order to have him both pitch and hit, you have to relax a bit, the DH rule. I think they’re prepared to do those kinds of things.”

Ohtani was elected to his first All-Star Game by fans Thursday night as the AL’s starting designated hitter. He remained coy through his translator on what the plans would be for him during the game.

“I think as players we’re all like just pieces of the puzzle, and it’s all up to the manager, how he’s going to decide to use me. That’s all I can say for now,” Ohtani said. “It is a pretty big milestone. I want the team to win first. As long as I’m performing and helping the team win, I felt like it should come natural for me to be selected as an All-Star.”

The Japanese two-way sensation went deep twice Friday night and leads the majors with 30 home runs and 51 extra-base hits. On the mound, the right-hander is 3-1 in 12 starts with a 3.60 ERA and 83 strikeouts. His .194 opponents’ batting average would rank third in the AL if he had enough innings to qualify.

Ohtani was chosen AL player of the month for June on Friday, marking the first time he received the monthly honor. He batted .309 with 13 home runs and 23 RBIs, along with going 2-0 with 33 strikeouts in five pitching starts. He finished the month by homering in 11 of the last 14 games.

His two long balls Friday not only gave him the Angels’ record for most home runs before the All-Star break, but it broke Babe Ruth’s mark for most in a season with 10 or more games pitched. Ruth had 29 homers in 1919 for the Boston Red Sox.

“It’s just such an easy swing, but it’s violent,” said teammate Mike Trout, who was also voted an All-Star Game starter despite being injured. “You’ve seen him the last few weeks, he’s unconscious at the plate. Anything he hits, it is over the fence.”

Trout said he talked to Ohtani last week and told him to enjoy the All-Star experience.

“Just the whole atmosphere and being there with all the guys, it’s one of the coolest things you’re going to do. And it goes by so fast, especially for him with the derby and all the directions he is going to be pulled in,” Trout said. “He’s going to try and put on a show, that’s why he’s Show-tani.”

Maddon talked to Cash last weekend when Los Angeles was at Tampa Bay for a three-game series. Maddon said discussions with Cash will continue, with Angels general manager Perry Minasian also having a role. Talks between the All-Star manager and teams are common, especially when it comes to the pitching staff and whether anyone is throwing the weekend before the game.

Ohtani also made his case to Cash with a 453-foot home run off the D-ring in right field at Tropicana Field in the first game of the series on June 25. That was only the 39th ball to reach that spot since the park opened in 1998.

Before the All-Star Game, Ohtani has more pressing matters — such as trying to bounce back from a tough outing in his last pitching start. He was charged with a career-high seven runs in two-thirds of an inning Wednesday against the New York Yankees, his worst start of the year.

Ohtani said there hasn’t been a decision on when he would make his next start. If he remains on schedule, it could be Tuesday or Wednesday against the Boston Red Sox.

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