Angels rookie Shohei Ohtani hits first homer in majors

ANAHEIM, Calif. – Shohei Ohtani stood Tuesday night on the top step of the third-base dugout at Angel Stadium, his helmet raised over his head, the crowd standing and shouting and applauding. He’d been ordered there by Mike Trout. Andrelton Simmons shoved him gently.

So prodded, the shy 23-year-old abided his first home curtain call, moments after his first home run, two days after his first pitching victory, with about as much humility as can be wrung from such an event.

With two runners on base in the first inning, Ohtani flicked a 2-and-2 curveball into the bleachers in right-center field. Urged forward by fans who’d come in part to see the two-way curiosity, the ball carried 397 feet. It left Ohtani’s bat at 104.5 mph, or about 4.5 mph faster than his hardest fastball two days before. The last player to win a game as a pitcher and hit a first-inning home run within a two-day span? Babe Ruth on June 13-14, 1921.

After a puzzling spring training that led many to wonder if the talented and hyped Ohtani was big-league ready on either side of the ball, Ohtani had a hit in five at-bats as a designated hitter Thursday in Oakland, allowed three runs in an otherwise dominant six innings as a starting pitcher Sunday, and Tuesday batted eighth as designated hitter against the Cleveland Indians.

Against right-hander Josh Tomlin, Ohtani weathered a series of pitches on the plate’s inner half. The early scouting report is to pitch Ohtani inside. Tomlin’s sixth pitch was a curveball, inside and low. Ohtani drove it to the bleachers. Two innings later, Ohtani lined a cut-fastball into left field, off second baseman Jason Kipnis’ glove, for his second hit in two at-bats. He was, for the moment, in the early days of April, a .429 hitter.

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Shohei Ohtani through his career
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Shohei Ohtani through his career
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - AUGUST 31: Shohei Otani of Japan reacts in the third inning during the 18U Baseball World Championship Group B match between Canada and Japan at Mokdong Stadium on August 31, 2012 in Seoul, South Korea. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - AUGUST 31: Shohei Otani of Japan pitches in the second inning during the 18U Baseball World Championship Group B match between Canada and Japan at Mokdong Stadium on August 31, 2012 in Seoul, South Korea. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
This picture taken on July 26, 2012 shows Shohei Otani, an 18-year-old Hanamaki Higashi High School studentm after he lost a baseball game the northern Japanese city of Morioka, Iwate prefecture. It was reported on October 21, 2012 that Otani has decided to try his hand in the Major Leagues in the US, making the jump after his high school graduation. JAPAN OUT AFP PHOTO / JIJI PRESS (Photo credit should read JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images)
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - SEPTEMBER 06: Shohei Otani of Japan looks on in the ninth inning during the 18U Baseball World Championship match between Japan and South Korea at Mokdong Stadium on September 6, 2012 in Seoul, South Korea. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA - SEPTEMBER 07: Cavan Biggio of United States tags out Shohei Otani of Japan as he slides into first base in the fifth inning during the U18 Baseball World Championship match between Japan and the United States at Mokdong stadium on September 7, 2012 in Seoul, South Korea. (Photo by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images)
Japan's pitcher Shohei Otani, who both pitches and hits for the Nippon Ham Fighters, attends a practice session before an exhibition baseball game against U.S. Major League Baseball (MLB) All-Stars in Tokyo November 14, 2014. Otani has made waves in Japan by throwing strikes and smashing home runs for the Nippon Ham Fighters, but the 'Double Sworded Samurai' may have to give up one of his weapons if he is to realise his dream of making it big in Major League Baseball. Picture taken November 14, 2014. To match story BASEBALL-JAPAN/OTANI REUTERS/Toru Hanai (JAPAN - Tags: SPORT BASEBALL HEADSHOT)
Japan's pitcher Shohei Otani, who both pitches and hits for the Nippon Ham Fighters, attends a practice session before an exhibition baseball game against U.S. Major League Baseball (MLB) All-Stars in Tokyo November 14, 2014. Otani has made waves in Japan by throwing strikes and smashing home runs for the Nippon Ham Fighters, but the 'Double Sworded Samurai' may have to give up one of his weapons if he is to realise his dream of making it big in Major League Baseball. Picture taken November 14, 2014. To match story BASEBALL-JAPAN/OTANI REUTERS/Toru Hanai (JAPAN - Tags: SPORT BASEBALL)
SAPPORO, JAPAN - NOVEMBER 18: Starting pitcher Shohei Otani #16 of Samurai Japan pitches in the first inning during the game five of Samurai Japan and MLB All Stars at Sapporo Dome on November 18, 2014 in Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan. (Photo by Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN - MARCH 21: (L-R) Former New York Yankee players Derek Jeter, Hideki Matsui, and Shohei Otani of Nippnham pose for photographers during the Tomodachi Charity Baseball Game on March 21, 2015 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Koji Watanabe/Getty Images)
SAPPORO, JAPAN - NOVEMBER 08: Shohei Otani #16 of Japan is interviewed after his team's 5-0 win in the WBSC Premier 12 match between Japan and South Korea at the Sapporo Dome on November 8, 2015 in Sapporo, Japan. (Photo by Atsushi Tomura/Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN - NOVEMBER 19: Starting pitcher Shohei Otani (R) #16 of Japan high fives with infielder Nobuhiro Matsuda (L) #3 after the top of sixth inning during the WBSC Premier 12 semi final match between South Korea and Japan at the Tokyo Dome on November 19, 2015 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Masterpress/Getty Images)
Japan's pitcher Shohei Otani hurls against South Korean batter during the semi final of the Premier 12 baseball tournament in Tokyo. South Korea defeated Japan 4-3. AFP PHOTO / JIJI PRES JAPAN OUT (Photo credit should read JIJI PRESS/AFP/Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN - NOVEMBER 10: Shohei Otani of Japan bats during the international friendly match between Japan and Mexico at the Tokyo Dome on November 10, 2016 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Sports Nippon/Getty Images)
TOKYO, JAPAN - NOVEMBER 12: Shohei Otani of Japan bats during the international friendly match between Japan and Netherlands at the Tokyo Dome on November 12, 2016 in Tokyo, Japan. (Photo by Sports Nippon/Getty Images)
Japanese baseball player Shohei Otani delivers his speech during a press conference at the Japan National Press Club in Tokyo on November 11, 2017. Baseball superstar Otani voiced in the press conference his wish to continue playing both on the mound and at the plate in the US, saying he has not given up either pitching or batting. / AFP PHOTO / JIJI PRESS / STR / Japan OUT (Photo credit should read STR/AFP/Getty Images)
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He’d arrived from Japan with a reputation as a power hitter. For the Nippon Ham Fighters, he hit 22 home runs in 323 at-bats (and posted a 1.86 ERA) in 2016, his last fully healthy season. Outside of batting practice, where the power was – and continues to be – as easy as it is startling, Ohtani showed none of that heft in spring games. In an effort to reset his timing, he substituted a toe tap for his high leg kick in the hours before the regular season began.

While Tomlin was not at his best Tuesday night (he gave up four home runs in three innings), Ohtani was taking his first at-bats in five days. The lack of regular at-bats is among the challenges for Ohtani, attempting the become baseball’s first regular two-way player in nearly a century. He is scheduled to make his next pitching start Sunday afternoon at Angel Stadium.

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