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Shohei Ohtani impresses again for the Angels, this time on the mound

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5 strikeouts in 2021 mound debut

MLB: Los Angeles Angels-Workouts Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Shohei Ohtani continues to amaze in a variety of ways on a baseball field. On Friday it came in the form of a blazing fastball while striking out five of his 10 batters faced in his first game of the spring on the mound.

Just two days after hitting a mammoth, 468-foot home run, Ohtani threw 100 mph on Friday, at least according to the display on the Fox Sports West broadcast. The in-person reports had his fastball slightly below triple digits, but still impressive.

“Velocity is something I definitely look at,” Ohtani told reporters on a Zoom call, through an interpreter. “But more than velocity, when I’m pitching with runners on base — this is something you can only do in a real game — I like to see how the ball’s coming out in those situations.”

The rational part of the brain warns that Ohtani hasn’t been fully healthy while pitching since 2018, and it’s hard to count on his production on the mound. But even after a down 2019 season, Ohtani’s talent is so immense and he’s still just 26 years old, it’s hard not to get excited when seeing his many talents on display.

The Angels plan to get as much as they can out of Ohtani this year, both hitting and pitching. That might mean no more days off from hitting on both the day before and after his pitching starts (maybe only one of those). But it also means potentially pitching more often than once per week.

“It’s not going to be like he’s only going to pitch on a Sunday,” manager Joe Maddon told reporters Friday morning. “Whenever his day comes up, his day comes up. We haven’t established the pecking order, but once that’s established, just like everybody else he’ll be a part of that order and he’ll roll with it.”

The Angels plan to start the season with a six-man rotation, with Ohtani joining Dylan Bundy, Andrew Heaney, Griffin Canning, Jose Quintana, and Alex Cobb. All 12 of Ohtani’s major league starts to date have come on at least six days rest, so this will be an adjustment.

“It’s probably going to take about 10 games to actually tell you how it’s going to be with the five-day rest schedule,” Ohtani said. “But if that’s what Joe wants, I’m all for it.”

In his first season in the major leagues, in 2018, Ohtani was well above average both in hitting (.285/.361/.564, 151 OPS+ in 367 plate appearances) and in pitching (3.31 ERA, 127 ERA+, 30-percent strikeout rate in 10 starts). The Angels are hoping to see those two-way talents flourish in 2021.

While this is only one spring start, it was an effective outing at that, and it’s hard not to get excited.