Shohei Ohtani will be two-way player in World Baseball Classic

SAN DIEGO — Shohei Ohtani will take his two-way talent to the World Baseball Classic for the first time in his career, as Japan manager Hideki Kuriyama said Tuesday at the Winter Meetings that if all goes according to plan, Ohtani will play a similar role. both pitcher and hitter in the tournament.

Even with Kuriyama, Ohtani said it’s too early to tell if he’ll be Japan’s starting pitcher or closer. This marks the first appearance in the tournament for Ohtani, who missed the 2017 Classic with an ankle injury.

“All options are available,” Kuriyama said through a translator. “We have to go to February and see where his body is.” But ideally, we want him to go out and hit and be a two-way player.”

Kuriyama, of course, knows Ohtani well, having served as his manager for five seasons from 2013-17 when he played for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters in Japan. The Fighters were instrumental in allowing Ohtani to serve as a two-way player, and it paid off for both sides as Ohtani became a five-time All-Star and helped the Warriors win the 2016 Japan Series.

Also Read :  Fans wrestle with a (largely) beer-free World Cup in Qatar

Angels general manager Perry Minasian said Ohtani is willing to play any role for Team Japan because he believes Ohtani has earned that right. Ohtani, 28, is coming off two stellar seasons in which he won a unanimous AL MVP award in 2021 before finishing second in voting to Aaron Judge this year.

“I’m open to everything,” Minasyan said. “Play short. Go to it. I am open to everything. So if he wants to shut down, I think he has the right to shut down. If he wants to play. center field, he earned the right to play center field for his country. I have no problem with whatever he does. He’s not someone I don’t care about. I believe in him.”

Kuriyama and Minasian said they are working out the details of how Ohtani will prepare for the World Baseball Classic and what his schedule will look like during spring training. Japan are in Group B, where they will play in Tokyo in their opening round and quarterfinals.

Also Read :  New World Bank Financing Aims to Strengthen Indonesia's Tuberculosis Response Program - Indonesia

Japan is joined by Korea, Australia, China and the Czech Republic in Group B, which will be played at the Tokyo Dome from March 9-13. If Japan advances, the quarterfinals will take place on March 15 and 16 at the Tokyo Dome. From there, the semifinals (March 19-20) and finals (March 21) will be held at loanDepot Park in Miami.

“We haven’t finalized anything yet,” Kuriyama said, “we’ll work on the schedule and details later.”

Minasian said he doesn’t believe Ohtani’s participation in the tournament will affect his ability to prepare for the regular season. It’s a big year for Ohtani, who signed a one-year, $30 million deal to avoid arbitration and wants to become a free agent after the season.

“He’s the last guy I worry about,” Minasian said. “When the bell rings, I know he’ll be ready to go. So, there is comfort and trust here. If he isn’t someone with that experience and our relationship, I might be a little worried. But we’ll decide where it goes and when and how, I’m not worried.”

Also Read :  First foreign COVID vaccines head to China from Germany

While Minaisian isn’t worried about Ohtani, the other teams in the World Baseball Classic certainly are. Netherlands manager/Rockies coach Hensley Meulens recalled the time he hit a ball into the ceiling against the Netherlands in 2016 at the Tokyo Dome.

“If he pitches and hits, that’s a problem for everybody he faces,” Meulens said. “He’s one of the best players in the world and it’s shown over the last few years. The only chance we had to face him was in the Samurai Classic in 2016 before the ’17 series. He didn’t pitch, but he hit, and he hit the ball over the top. I think that’s now in the museum or the Hall of Fame, so Shohei is a great player. Whoever has to face him has his hands full.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Related Articles

Back to top button