MIAMI — The dream matchup of Shohei Ohtani pitching to Mike Trout could become reality Tuesday night.
Ohtani plans to hit and pitch in the finals of the World Baseball Classic against Team USA, he said after spearheading Japan’s rollicking 6-5 come-from-behind semifinal win against Mexico on Monday night, though his time on the mound will come in an unfamiliar role: as a relief pitcher.
The last time Ohtani pitched out of the bullpen was in 2016, when he was 22 years old and in the postseason with the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters. Ohtani threw one blemish-free inning and unleashed a pair of fastballs clocked at 165 kilometers per hour — approximately 102.5 mph, harder than any pitch he has thrown in his five seasons with the Los Angeles Angels.
Ohtani last started five days ago, throwing 71 pitches in Samurai Japan’s quarterfinal victory against Italy. Never since he arrived in Major League Baseball has Ohtani thrown on four or fewer days of rest, putting him in a position to follow Japan’s starter, left-hander Shota Imanaga, as well as San Diego Padres star Yu Darvish, who is expected to throw in the middle innings.
All of it sets up the possibility of Ohtani standing 60 feet, 6 inches from his friend and teammate Trout, the captain of the powerful U.S. team that trounced Cuba 14-2 in the semifinals.
“Not only Mike Trout, but one through nine in that order is filled with superstars, household names,” Ohtani said. “Just excited to face that lineup. It’s a great thing for Japanese baseball.”
The game between Japan and Mexico was a great thing for any fan of the game — taut, tense, crisp, with moment after heroic moment. Ohtani featured in the most imperative moment. Japan, which had come back from a 3-0 deficit with a three-run home run from Boston Red Sox outfielder Masataka Yoshida, frittered away the advantage and trailed 5-4 heading into the bottom of the ninth inning.
Ohtani, leading off against St. Louis Cardinals reliever Giovanny Gallegos, stroked a double into right-center field. As he stood on second base, Ohtani screamed toward Japan’s dugouts and raised his arms in exultation twice.
“It’s been a while since I was playing in a win-or-lose game, a playoff atmosphere game,” said Ohtani, who has not reached the postseason with the Angels. “So obviously, we couldn’t lose, and I wanted to get the guys riled up in the dugout.”
Gallegos walked Yoshida, who was lifted for pinch runner Ukyo Shuto, and proceeded to face his third straight elite hitter, Nippon Professional Baseball home run champion Munetaka Murakami. After striking out in his first three at-bats, Murakami more than atoned, smashing a 111 mph line drive off the center-field fence, scoring a rejoicing Ohtani and a sliding Shuto to set off a Japanese celebration.
Without the ninth-inning heroics, Ohtani would be headed back to Arizona to finish spring training with the Angels. Instead, he’ll try to replicate the results of that semifinal game in 2016. On that day, his pitching coach — Kazuyuki Atsuzawa, currently the bullpen coach for Samurai Japan — told Ohtani in the fifth inning that if the Fighters held a lead, he would pitch the ninth. Ohtani said he took an at-bat, went to throw in a bullpen, took another at-bat and went into the game.
This time, he said, “I will be prepared. Obviously, I’m DHing, so it’s going to be hard to find that time to get hot in the bullpen.”
Ohtani figures he’ll manage. Just being in the finals, in meaningful games, is an experience worth cherishing.
“Obviously, it’s a big accomplishment to get to the championship series, but there’s a huge difference from being in first and second,” Ohtani said, “so I’m going to do all I can to get that first place.”
Yanks’ Germán says he’ll probably use less rosin
NEW YORK — Yankees pitcher Domingo Germán said Sunday he probably will use less rosin on his hands when he returns from a 10-game suspension for using a foreign substance on the mound.
Germán was suspended by Major League Baseball on May 17 and will return to the Yankees’ rotation for Monday’s game in Seattle.
“You have to do something different because what I did before got me ejected from the game,” he said through an interpreter. “Probably go back to previous years before where I used it way less.”
Germán was disciplined after being ejected in the fourth inning of New York’s 6-3 win in Toronto on May 16. He retired the first nine hitters before his hands were checked by first-base umpire D.J. Reyburn as Germán headed to the mound for the fourth inning.
After the game, crew chief James Hoye said Germán had “the stickiest hand I’ve ever felt.”
Hoye’s crew also examined Germán’s hands during an April 15 start against Minnesota, when the right-hander retired his first 16 batters, but allowed him to stay in that game. Hoye had asked Germán to wash rosin off his hand and some had remained on his pinkie.
Germán said Sunday he has not gotten a direct explanation of what is the appropriate amount of rosin to use.
“As far as like a direct explanation on how much to use or not, I haven’t gotten a better explanation from MLB or the umpires,” he said. “To me, I have to keep using it, understand how much to use and keep a balance, but at the same time I’ve got to keep preparing myself to pitch and keep my routine in between starts to get me in the right shape for the next start and just keep using the rosin bag and try to keep executing pitches.”
Germán was the fourth pitcher suspended since MLB began cracking down on foreign substances in June 2021 and the second this season. New York Mets pitcher Max Scherzer also served a 10-game suspension after being ejected April 19 in Los Angeles against the Dodgers.
In 2021, Seattle’s Hector Santiago and Arizona’s Caleb Smith served suspensions for sticky substances.
“He has to avoid that and that’s us being more vigilant and check and make sure we’re in a good spot,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said of Germán. “We should be fine, but I think that’s the one thing about this: What is the line, there is no defined line, you can’t have sticky [substances] on your hands. So he’s got to be mindful of that.”
German is 2-3 with a 3.75 ERA in nine starts this season. He is 28-24 with a 4.31 ERA in 101 career appearances (79 starts) since making his major league debut in 2017 with the Yankees.
Hendriks to rejoin ChiSox after cancer treatment
Chicago White Sox reliever Liam Hendriks will be reinstated to the active roster on Monday, the team announced, after he missed the first two months of the season while being treated for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
The White Sox posted a video montage to their Twitter page on Sunday that featured messages from White Sox players and coaches welcoming back Hendriks.
“See you soon Southside,” Hendriks posted on Instagram, along with Monday’s date, 5-29.
Hendriks, 34, was diagnosed with stage 4 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in early December and completed his final round of chemotherapy in early April. He began a rehab assignment earlier this month, appearing in six games for Triple-A Charlotte.
Hendriks threw several batting practice sessions over the past 10 days against teammates before declaring himself ready on Sunday.
“As of now I have a clean bill of health,” Hendriks said this month as he began his rehab assignment. “I’m currently in remission.”
Hendriks announced his diagnosis on Jan. 9. His return comes just shy of six months since his diagnosis.
“As soon as I found out the regular treatment timelines, I thought, ‘OK, how can I beat it?'” he said in May. “It was those days on the couch, not being able to move much (after chemo), those were the days you needed to dig deep and find that positive mental attitude.”
The White Sox bullpen has struggled in Hendriks’ absence, though they’ve been better in May after lefty Garrett Crochet returned from Tommy John surgery and righty Joe Kelly went on a scoreless streak that lasted 10 appearances. But overall Chicago has struggled through the first two months, heading into Memorial Day with a 22-33 record.
Hendriks is in the final season of a three-year, $54 million contract, with a $15 million club option for 2024.
The White Sox host the Los Angeles Angels on Monday night.
Lewis to come off 60-day IL, rejoin Twins Monday
MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Twins have lost eight of 10 series in May, with a lineup that’s been limping along lately with a spate of injuries and too many strikeouts.
They could use a boost. Royce Lewis is on his way.
Lewis will join the Twins in Houston, where they’ll start a three-game series Monday. The first overall pick in the 2017 draft will be reinstated from the 60-day injured list and return to action exactly one year from the date of the torn ACL in his right knee that limited his major league debut to 12 games.
Manager Rocco Baldelli announced the move after a 3-0 loss to Toronto on Sunday. Outfielders Kyle Garlick and Matt Wallner will be sent down to Triple-A St. Paul, where Lewis has been playing on a rehab assignment. Outfielder Max Kepler will also be reinstated from the 10-day injured list, after missing 14 games with a strained left hamstring.
“This is a culmination of a lot of hard work from Royce. I’m excited to see Royce back out on the field. He can jolt you with the enthusiasm and all of the exciting things that he can do, but he’s a good young player and he’s had a long road to get back to this point,” Baldelli said.
Lewis batted .333 with four homers and 10 RBIs with a 1.098 OPS in eight games on his rehab assignment with the Saints. Manager Toby Gardenhire delivered the news, Baldelli said.
“All the reports have him in a good place, and he’s done a good job following through on everything he’s needed to do,” Baldelli said. “Now, he’s ready.”
Lewis batted .300 with four doubles, two home runs — including a grand slam – and five RBIs in 12 games for the Twins last season. He was drafted as a shortstop, but since the arrival of Carlos Correa last year he has made the transition to third base and will likely be a fixture there for the foreseeable future.
Second baseman Jorge Polanco (strained left hamstring) and outfielder Trevor Larnach (pneumonia) are two other regulars who remain out. Polanco went through a pregame workout and is eligible to return anytime, but Baldelli said he’ll continue to be evaluated daily before a decision is made. Kyle Farmer and Edouard Julien can play second base in the meantime.
Wallner was sent back to Triple-A in a roster-management game despite reaching base eight straight times.
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