Why Yankees shouldn’t be worried about pitcher Shohei Ohtani?

Shohei Ohtani enters Yankee Stadium for warm up before the Angels play the Yankees, June 30, 2021, in New York.
AP Photo/Adam Hunger
John Allen
Tuesday April 18, 2023

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The Yankees are set to play their first game against the Angels on Tuesday. Many see it as a contest between Aaron Judge and Shohei Ohtani, two of the MLB’s best players. However, the Yankees won’t have to worry about pitches from the two-way star for Los Angeles and only have to deal with his hits at Yankee Stadium.

Shohei Ohtani has played 17 games against the Yankees so far and has hit .200 (12-for-60) with seven home runs and 12 RBIs. In six games against the Yankees last season, he went 7-for-24. Ohtani is 5-for-36 with three home runs and five RBIs in 10 games at Yankee Stadium.

No big pitching role for Shohei Ohtani

Shohei Ohtani came in second to Aaron Judge for Most Valuable Player in the American League last season and lost the award by a big margin. He is hitting .298 with three home runs and nine RBIs. Shohei Ohtani went 2-for-5 in Monday’s 5-4 win at Fenway Park, which helped the Angels avoid being swept in four games. Hunter Renfroe hit a three-run home run for his team in the first inning, which got the offense going.

Shohei Ohtani also threw two innings before rain stopped his last start on Monday, but Tucker Davidson threw 3 1/3 innings to save the bullpen.

“I think just after the past few days, we needed to win badly,” Davidson said. “And for us to bear down and do it, a delay, another rain delay, I mean nobody really wanted that. We wanted to get to New York by six and have a nice dinner. But sometimes you gotta make do with what you’re given and I think we did a good job of handling adversity and just going out there and continuing to play our game despite the conditions out there.”

Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon also took a day off for the Angels. Manager Phil Nevin set up their days off in advance, and both are expected to play on Tuesday.

The Yankees enter their latest encounter with Shohei Ohtani on the heels of two outstanding pitching efforts that helped them split a four-game series with the visiting Minnesota Twins.

judge-ohtani-new-york-yankees
MLB

The Yankees will not have to face Ohtani the pitcher this time, as the right-hander had a two-inning, rain-shortened start against the Red Sox on Monday. Yet, Ohtani the hitter is just half of the Angels’ current fight, with three-time MVP Mike Trout batting in front of him.

“It’s a challenge,” manager Aaron Boone said. “Two of the greatest in our sport, right up there on that short list of conversations for best players. It’s always fun to watch those guys compete and go up against the best. But you gotta make sure you execute at a high level.”

After two defeats in a row, Domingo German helped the Yankees win on Saturday and ace Gerrit Cole pitched a two-hitter in a 2-0 victory on Sunday.

The Yankees triumphed despite having Giancarlo Stanton out with a left hamstring injury. Stanton was hurt while hitting a two-run double on Saturday and will be out for at least a month. To compensate for Stanton’s absence, New York manager Aaron Boone will change guys in the lineup.

Right-hander Clarke Schmidt (0-0, 8.44 ERA) will face Shohei Ohtani first. While Schmidt has been .433 (13-for-30) against left-handed batters, his performance against the right-handers stands at .177 (3-for-17) so far in 2023.

Schmidt last pitched in a no-decision on Wednesday at Cleveland, when he gave three runs on six hits in four innings.

Schmidt previously faced the Angels on June 2, 2022, and surrendered one run on two hits while pitching two-thirds of an inning. He’s never started a game versus Los Angeles.

The Angels will send out Jose Suarez (0-1, 10.80), who last pitched on April 10 and gave up four runs in four innings and 10 hits, tying a career low. Suarez has faced the Yankees four times (two times as a starter), going 2-1 with a 5.21 ERA. The last time he faced the Yankees was at home on August 29, 2022. He gave up two runs in six innings and won.

Shohei Ohtani gets a lot of attention and amazement wherever he goes. People are waiting for him to throw a triple-digit fastball or hit a ball 450 feet, sometimes in the same game.

Can the Yankees afford Shohei Ohtani?

This could go to a whole new level this year, especially when Shohei Ohtani plays in The Bronx on Tuesday for a series against the Yankees. However, fans love to see him in pinstripes one day when he becomes a free agent at the end of the season.

A lineup with both Shohei Ohtani and Aaron Judge, the last two American League MVPs, has the ability to muscle through all competition. And the Bronx faithfuls are sure to delight at the anticipation of Gerrit Cole with Ohtani.

The AL MVP race is a two-man contest between Aaron Judge and Ohtani.

But is it possible? When the idea was brought up to Nestor Cortes on Sunday, he said, “Oh my gosh.”

Of course, it is not sure if Shohei Ohtani would really want to leave the West Coast to play baseball for the Yankees or Mets in New York. When he first moved from Japan to MLB in 2017, the Yankees didn’t make it to the second round of talks. Shohei Ohtani reportedly told the Yankees that he couldn’t see himself in New York. But there were rumors of the Yankees trying to get Ohtani at the trade deadline last summer.

If the Angels don’t fall apart before the trade deadline, the next time he is available will be the next offseason, when his price tag may go up to $500 million.

“That would be great for us if we were able to land him,” Cortes said. “But he’s going to be really expensive, so we’ll see how that turns out.”

Cortes agreed that it was impossible to predict how much a player like Shohei Ohtani would make on the free market since there hasn’t been a guy like him in the game before.

Aaron Judge, who dubbed Shohei Ohtani “by far one of the finest players on the planet” after defeating him in the AL MVP race last November, just received $360 million over nine years, but a club would have to account for Ohtani’s pitching on top of that.

“See what Judge gets and then you gotta see what [Kevin] Gausman or somebody else gets,” Cortes said of the Blue Jays right-hander who signed a five-year, $110 million contract before the 2022 season. “[Ohtani is] a top-five pitcher and he’s a top-five hitter. Pretty crazy.”

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