Los Angeles Angels two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani will do more than make his season debut as a pitcher Sunday night against the Chicago White Sox -- he'll make personal history. That's because Ohtani will also be part of the Angels' lineup, marking the first time in his big-league career he'll be asked to hit and pitch in the same contest.
Ohtani's two-way presence in a game is part of an altered approach by the Angels. Previously, the organization had micromanaged his appearances so as to provide his body with ample time to recover. Ohtani, for his part, seems on board.
"From the beginning of Spring Training we've been talking about when I was going to play, and it's pretty much up to how I'm feeling the day before and the day after," Ohtani told reporters, including MLB.com's Rhett Bollinger, on Saturday. "So far, I've been feeling good, so that's why I'm in the lineup."
Ohtani will be making his 13th career pitching appearance on Sunday. Over his first 12 outings, he compiled a 4.39 ERA and a 2.20 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He did not pitch during the 2019 season as he recovered from Tommy John surgery. Last year, meanwhile, he was parked as a pitcher after a pair of disastrous starts that saw him allow seven runs on three hits and eight walks over 1 2/3 innings pitched.
Per Bollinger's research, Ohtani will become one of a small group of pitchers to hit for themselves in a game with the designated hitter available. The previous instances include Ken Brett doing it twice in 1976; Andy Sonnanstine in 2009 (because of a Joe Maddon lineup card error); and Madison Bumgarner in 2016.
By waiving their right to the DH, the Angels are risking the possibility that Ohtani makes an early departure. Under such a scenario, the Angels would have to choose between making frequent pitching changes or having an automatic out in the lineup. National League teams, of course, have to make similar decisions all the time.