Shohei Ohtani is working this Easter Sunday. And no, that doesn't mean he gets double-time pay for being a two-way talent.
You may be still in church when Shohei Ohtani throws the first pitch of his major league career. Pray, brothers and sisters, for whatever your prayers may be.
Your humble correspondent plans on taking a pew in church before today's game, and then racing off to watch any baseball revelations that may come from under the halo.
Ohtani is the main attraction today in the congregation of baseball. Today, Shohei Ohtani digs his spikes into the rubber at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, for his major-league debut as an Angels' starting pitcher.
"We have no idea what to expect." said Oakland A's manager Bob Melvin, which is about as honest an answer as you can expect around MLB these days.
April Fools' Day? Nah.
Well, there might be more red than green on the landscape. But the man on the mound is the focus.
One thing Melvin, and his Angels counterpart Mike Scioscia, can bank on is that Ohtani's pitching debut is something that will be seen across multiple time zones across baseball's 360-degree landscape.
So many cameras and so many eyeballs. Virtual reality everywhere.
In Ohtani's homeland of Japan, baseball fanatics are cueing up their DVRs to watch a tape-delayed broadcast (at the ungodly time of 5 o'clock in the morning on a Monday, Japan time). That's dedication. Spirit.
In the good old US-of-A, where Ohtani has decided to set up shop for at least six years, and will stand for the Star Spangled Banner, not even the East Coast-biased-or-based folks will be able to ignore it.
If Ohtani gets lit up, or if he throws Easter-colored goose-eggs, people are going to be watching.
The MLB Network has decided to reach more people, so it is broadcasting Ohtani's pitching debut live in New York City, whether they like it or not. In the Bronx. In Boston. This is the game of the day stateside.
Shohei Ohtani will be nervous. He has admitted as much – anyone doing what Shohei Ohtani is doing would be. So he takes the wide view.
"It’s going to be a long season," Ohtani told ESPN’s Paul Gutierrez, through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. "I just want to enjoy the season.
"I just want the team to win. That’s the only thing (I am) worried about."
Well, why should he worry? Shohei Ohtani has already overcome many obstacles in his journey from teenage phenom in Japan, rising to elite athlete status, and becoming the focus of all this attention, that the click of a camera is not going to faze him.
Attention is one thing that has traced Ohtani's baseball arc. He’s only 23, but he has courage, lots of it, to face it.
And an inherent understanding of what will be, will be. What he is now, is what he is now. The task at hand is now, and the future is ahead of all of us.
Facing Ohtani? Well, based on the lineup the Athletics trotted out on Opening Day against Angels' ace Garrett Richards, you might expect the Japanese phenom to be dealing to the likes of:
OK, this is not Murderer's Row. Not on face value.
It’s not a Henderson/Canseco/McGwire A's lineup either.
And that's if you trust Melvin to go to script (he won't). But you can count on the Oakland Athletics to put major-league swings on Ohtani's meant-to-be major-league deliveries.
These guys are not the Miami Marlins. The Oakland A’s are a Real Deal MLB lineup, in a game that counts, and it's something that Shohei Ohtani hasn't seen yet, but he has dreamed about. The A’s might sting him. God only knows how he slept the night before Easter Sunday.
Melvin could shuffle the deck. Who’s to stop Bob Melvin from putting slugging Khris Davis at leadoff? Nobody. Welcome to the big leagues, rook.
But at the heart of the story, the guys on the other side are wearing the other team's colors, and Ohtani will be wearing some gray and red combination, and that’s what counts.
He has to pitch against some team. And Ohtani has been a baseball player for a long time, despite his youth, he's pitched against a lot of teams, including the Tijuana Toros. We can
cannot forget about that one.
Pitching, as even the Angels' famously tight-lipped organization has acknowledged, is expected to be Shohei Ohtani's upside, and over some sketchy innings -- mostly hidden out of sight in spring training in Arizona -- pitching is still likely to be to his calling card.
But there are multiple factors at play today. Adjustments with the larger ball. The harder mound. The better hitters.
Ohtani has a lot to deal with. History. Babe Ruth comparisons, fair or unfair.
Angels management wisely spared Ohtani the angst of having to be an MLB debutante as a pitcher.
As a batter on Thursday, Sho-Time did just fine. He was anxious then too, but batting is controlled aggression.
Ohtani wasn’t waiting. With his parents Toru and Kayoko in attendance, Ohtani smoked the first pitch he saw in the bigs off of Kendall Graveman for a sharp single past the diving glove of Olson. He finished 1-for-5 in a game in which Mike Trout, who is not bad at baseball, went oh-fer. 0-for-6.
We can dig deeper, but there's not much point.
Ohtani could use a little help from help from his friends, and here's where he's got some advantages. The Angels ... the team he signed for ... for still reasons not fully revealed.
His team. The plus side:
The massive expanse of foul ground in Oakland can be Ohtani's friend. Pop-ups can find gloves instead of the expensive seats.
The Angels are hot. Riding a two-game win streak, which could have been three, this is a confident bunch of teammates to hang your jersey next to.
Martin Maldonado has been grooming himself for catching this game since Ohtani signed in December, and he's ready to call and catch the game of his life.
Glovesmiths Zack Cozart and Andrelton Simmons are up the middle with a lot of leather, if Ohtani can coax some ground balls, those become outs.
Ohtani does not have to strike everyone out. And nobody should care about whiffs unless you have Ohtani ("The Pitcher") in your Yahoo fantasy league and are counting on 10 Ks.
Angels skipper Scioscia, thanks to a marvelous start from Tyler Skaggs yesterday, has a mostly rested bullpen at his beck and call, if it goes wonky with Ohtani on the hill. But Shohei Ohtani will not want to see Scioscia walk to the mound to get the ball.
But Scioscia will relieve Ohtani.
Sabermetricians will debate this until hell freezes over (at least one of the two will happen).
But some run support in the top of the first could help or hurt Ohtani.
If Mike Trout & Co. decide to do what Mike Trout & Co. do – facing the A’s 29-year-old journeyman Andrew Triggs – and the batting-first visiting Angels stake Ohtani to a big lead in the first, Ohtani could come in cold after his bullpen session and a half-hour wait. Pace of play be ...
Darned. It's Easter.
Or Ohtani could come into a 0-0 game. He could strike out 10, or allow a big, crooked number, but the odds of Ohtani finishing what he starts are almost nil.
At some point, Mike Scioscia will come to the mound and summon for a reliever. Ask for the baseball. Ohtani is realistic.
Fastball. Establish. Splitter. Establish. Curve. Establish. Cutter. Establish.
And after that the Beach Boys sang, "God Only Knows."