The Milwaukee Brewers had the privilege of introducing Japanese pitcher/hitter Shohei Ohtani to Major League Baseball on February 24.
Shohei Ohtani was wild with his explosive fastball, but showed off a big, slow curveball, a dynamic cutter, and a devastating splitter in his U.S. debut as a pitcher.
About 6,000 fans and an above-average media presence showed up to see the Japanese superstar. Milwaukee Brewers fans sat, comfortable in shorts and tank-tops while Los Angeles Angels supporters were seen bundled in blankets.
The real entertainment, however, took the mound in the first inning. Ohtani is known as a great hitter and pitcher in Japan. Americans nicknamed him ‘The Japanese Babe Ruth’ for his uncanny dual ability.
U.S. scouts claim they have never seen a player who could hit and pitch as well as Ohtani.
Shohei Ohtani allows one earned run
Jonathan Villar took Ohtani’s first pitch in Arizona, a fastball, low for a ball. Villar looked patient at the plate. He worked the count on Ohtani to 3-1, then launched a ball that hit the base of the center field wall for a double. His first at-bat of Spring Training showed the potential prize from that dedication.
Ohtani finished the first and came back in the top of the second inning to get a little more work. Keon Broxton met him with a home run. Ohtani left the game soon after as he reached his pitch count.
Overall, Ohtani had control issues with his upper-nineties fastball. But he also showed off a big, slow, beautiful curve, a sharp cutter, and a dominant split-finger fastball. If Ohtani can throw all those pitches for strikes with consistency for a full Major League season, he will become a true ace.
The Angels have announced plans to keep a six-man rotation to keep Ohtani rested and healthy as a pitcher.
Notable Brewers pitching performances
Chase Anderson put on some muscle and broke out in 2017. He will not have to compete for a rotation spot during this spring because of that performance. Anderson had control issues all first inning and gave up two runs before recording his third out.
Brandon Woodruff entered the game in the second inning. Woodruff saw limited time with the 2017 Brewers. The Brewers prospect will compete for a 2018 rotation spot this spring. Woodruff pumped in strikes to start his inning and struck out his first batter. However, a Milwaukee Brewers error and aggressive base running marked up Woodruff’s stat sheet.
Marcos Diplan’s pitches darted with movement, but he did not control them as well as he could have. He walked a batter before getting out of the inning with a double play. Diplan will continue to work on his control in the Minors this year.
Daniel Brown walked the bases loaded in the ninth before giving up the losing run.
Brewers offense on Saturday
Villar impressed the most in his second game of 2018 Spring Training. Villar looked calm and calculating in the fourth inning when he doubled for the second time, after working the count and doubling off Ohtani in the first.
Mauricio Dubon no doubt had eyes on him during his plate appearances. Dubon plays shortstop and second base. Dubon is a prospect with speed and good plate discipline. He failed to standout in this game, but he will get more chances to turn heads during Spring Training.
Broxton showed the Brewers and potential trade suitors his power-speed value during this game. In his second at-bat, Broxton hit a home run off of Ohtani. Next, he walked in his third plate appearance. On base, he proceeded to steal two bags against former Brewers catcher and reigning American League Gold Glover, Martin Maldonado.
It’s easy to overlook Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Kyle Wren. He is a prospect who gets lost among Milwaukee’s glutton of other talented outfielders in the Majors and Minors. Wren collected three hits on Saturday in an effort to get noticed.