Shohei Ohtani flirted with the idea of going straight from high school in Japan to American pro ball, with the Red Sox, Rangers and Dodgers among the teams in pursuit. Instead, Ohtani opted to stay in Japan and sign with the Nippon Ham Fighters of Nippon Professional Baseball.
With Japanese spring training underway, Ohtani made his first pitching appearance in an exhibition game for the Fighters today, throwing a scoreless inning of relief against Rakuten. Ohtani, 18, threw his fastball in the low-to-mid-90s and reached 98 mph, mixing in a solid mid-80s slider, although his control was erratic.
He gave up a single and made an errant pickoff throw, but the 6-foot-4 righthander struck out two batters, including a three-pitch strikeout to the first batter he faced, Casey McGehee, who had big league time last year with the Pirates and Yankees.
Ohtani stayed in the game and played right field, grounding out in his only at-bat. While Ohtani’s major league future would be on the mound, part of the pitch the Fighters made to Ohtani appears to be that he will get a chance to be a two-way player for them.