Hours after Angels’ slugger/pitcher Shohei Ohtani told reporters he intended to finish out the year as the club’s designated hitter, the 24-year-old wunderkind hammered his 19th home run of the season to set a new record for Japanese rookie ballplayers in MLB.
The blast came on an 0-2 fastball from left-hander Carlos Rodon and scored David Fletcher and Mike Trout to cap a four-run spread in the third inning of Friday’s game against the White Sox. It’s also Ohtani’s fourth home run this month: He hit one out during Tuesday’s 4-2 loss to the Rangers and returned for another pair of dingers the following day.
Per MLB.com’s Max Gelman, the talented DH is the first Japanese rookie to record 19 or more home runs in MLB history. The previous record-holder, former Mariners catcher Kenji Johjima, collected 18 homers during his first major-league campaign in 2006. What he managed to do in 139 games during his age-30 season, Ohtani has accomplished over just 83 games in his age-23 season.
The historic home run followed Ohtani’s announcement earlier in the day, when he told reporters that he has yet to make a decision regarding an impending Tommy John procedure on his right elbow. He’s currently weighing the pros and cons of undergoing the surgery and is expected to make a final decision sometime during the offseason. Additional comments revealed that he would like to retain his status as a two-way player once he’s fully recovered from the injury and able to pitch again; until that becomes a possibility, he’ll stay on as the Angels’ lefty DH in 2018 and appears likely to return in a limited role for the club in 2019 as well.