Sports

Angels manager Joe Maddon wants Shohei Ohtani to hit and pitch in the All-Star Game

Friday night, Los Angeles Angels two-way wunderkind Shohei Ohtani continued his historic season with his 29th and 30th home runs in his team’s win over the Baltimore Orioles (LAA 8, BAL 7). Ohtani is only the third player in history with 30 homers and 10 steals in his team’s first 81 games, joining Sammy Sosa (1998) and Albert Pujols (2009).

Earlier this week fans voted Ohtani the American League’s starting DH for the All-Star Game in two weeks. He’s also going to take his hacks in the Home Run Derby. And, if it were up to Angels manager Joe Maddon, Ohtani would pitch in the All-Star Game too. Here’s what Maddon told reporters on Friday (via the Associated Press):

The maximum participation of Shohei within limits to me is the right thing to do. 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.

Because he’ll be in the starting lineup at DH, the AL would forfeit the DH once Ohtani takes the mound. The All-Star Game is a meaningless exhibition — it is a marketing tool to showcase the game’s brightest stars and nothing else — and MLB should bend the rules so Ohtani can pitch without the AL losing the DH. It is a no-brainer as far as I’m concerned.

When asked about possibly hitting and pitching in the All-Star Game, Ohtani played coy, only saying, “It’s all up to the manager, how he’s going to decide to use me. That’s all I can say for now.”

Maddon said he has spoken to Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash, the AL’s All-Star Game manager, about letting Ohtani hit and pitch in the All-Star Game. It is common for managers to discuss player usage in the All-Star Game, particularly regarding pitchers, in the days leading up to the event.

The question is not should Ohtani hit and pitch in the All-Star Game. He obviously should. The real question is whether he’ll be up to it physically. Ohtani has played in 76 of the Angels’ 81 games this year, and MLB would be asking him to participate in the Home Run Derby on Monday, then hit and pitch in the All-Star Game on Tuesday. That’s a lot.

If Ohtani isn’t up to it and doesn’t think he can pitch in the All-Star Game, then so be it. It would be a bummer but understandable. You can’t ask him to risk injury by pitching fatigued. If Ohtani is up to it though, then MLB and Cash should make sure it happens. He is the game’s most exciting player and there’s no better time to show him off than the All-Star Game.

Ohtani, 26, is hitting .280/.364/.705 with an MLB-leading 30 home run as a hitter this season. As a pitcher, he owns a 3.60 ERA with 83 strikeouts in 12 starts and 60 innings. Ohtani’s combined 4.8 FanGraphs’ WAR leads baseball.

The 2021 MLB All-Star Game will be played on Tuesday, July 13, at Coors Field in Denver.




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