Angels’ Ohtani pitches into 3rd in spring debut; off to WBC

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MESA, Ariz. – 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).”

Trevor Bauer pulls on No. 96 for Yokohama’s BayStars

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YOKOHAMA, Japan – Trevor Bauer apparently was shunned by every major league team, so he’s signed a one-year deal with the Yokohama DeNA BayStars.

Before about 75 reporters in a Yokohama hotel, he slipped on the BayStars uniform – No. 96 – on Friday and said all the right things. Not a single Japanese reporter asked him about his suspension in the United States over domestic violence allegations or the reasons surrounding it.

The only question about it came from The Associated Press. Bauer disputed the fact the question suggested he was suspended from the major leagues.

“I don’t believe that’s accurate,” he said of the suspension. “But I’m excited to be here. I’m excited to pitch again. I’ve always wanted to play in Japan.”

He said the suspension dealt technically with matters of pay, and he said he had contacted major league teams about playing this year. He said he would have been eligible, but did not say if he had offers.

The 2020 NL Cy Young Award winner was released by the Los Angeles Dodgers on Jan. 12, three weeks after an arbitrator reduced his suspension imposed by Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred from 324 to 194 games.

The penalty followed an investigation into domestic violence, which the pitcher has denied.

Manfred suspended Bauer last April for violating the league’s domestic violence and sexual assault policy, after a San Diego woman said he beat and sexually abused her in 2021.

Bauer has maintained he did nothing wrong, saying everything that happened between him and the woman was consensual. He was never charged with a crime.

Bauer joined his hometown Dodgers before the 2021 season and was 8-5 with a 2.59 ERA in 17 starts before being placed on paid leave.

Bauer said his goal with the BayStars was to strike out 200 and keep his average fastball velocity at 96 mph – hence his uniform number. He said he is also working on a better change-up pitch.

He said he hoped to play by mid-April – about two weeks after the Japanese season begins – and said he has been training for the last 1 1/2 years.

“I’ve been doing a lot of strength training and throwing,” he said. “I didn’t really take any time off. So I’ve had a year and a half of development time. I’m stronger than ever. More powerful than ever.”

Yokohama has not won a title in 25 years, and Bauer said that was his goal in the one-year deal.

“First and foremost, I want to help the Stars win a championship,” he said. “That involves pitching well. That involves helping teammates and learning from them. If they have questions – you know – share my knowledge with them.”

He also repeated several times about his desire to play in Japan, dating from a collegiate tournament in 2009 at the Tokyo Dome. He said playing in Japan was on his mind even before winning the Cy Young – and also immediately after.

“The Tokyo Dome was sold out,” he said. “I’d never played in front of that many people – probably combined in my life. In the United States, college games aren’t very big, so seeing that amount of passion. How many people came to a college game in Japan. It really struck me.”

He said he’d been practicing with the Japanese ball, which he said was slightly softer with higher seams.

“But overall it just feels like a baseball and the pitches move the same. The velocity is similar. I don’t notice much of a difference.”

Other teams in Japan have made similar controversial signings before.

Former major league reliever Roberto Osuna – who received a 75-game suspension for violating MLB’s domestic violence policy – signed last season with the Chiba Lotte Marines.

He has signed for this season with the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks.

In 1987, Dodgers relief pitcher Steve Howe, who had a career plagued with drug problems, tried to sign with the Seibu Lions. But he did not play in the country after the Japanese baseball commissioner disqualified Howe because of his history of drug abuse.

Bauer was an All-Star in 2018 and went 83-69 with a 3.79 ERA in 10 seasons for Arizona (2012), Cleveland, (2013-19), Cincinnati (2019-20) and the Dodgers. He won the NL Cy Young Award with Cincinnati during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.