LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Shohei Ohtani said he had felt “something click” with the Los Angeles Angels as his reason for joining the team when being introduced at Anaheim Stadium on Saturday.
The Angels won a heated race to sign the coveted 23-year-old Japanese, both a starting pitcher and an accomplished batter, who was introduced to raucous applause from cheering fans.
“The Angels, I just felt something click,” Ohtani told reporters and fans via a translator after slipping on a bright red number 17 jersey.
“I look forward to becoming part of the Angel family … Hopefully we can bring a championship back to Anaheim.”
Manager Mike Scioscia expressed confidence Shohei could play his part in turning the Angels from a team that went 80-82 in the 2017 season into a World Series contender.
“Our job is to see exactly how you get a multi-dimensional two-way athlete like Shohei to bring his talent on the field, and bring his talent often enough where he leads us to championships,” Scioscia said.
“His ability both on the mound and in the batter’s box is something that really never comes along, so our excitement is very high.
“Getting Shohei here is obviously something that is a tremendous boost to where we want to end up.”
Scioscia confirmed would use Shohei as a two-way player, though more likely as a designated hitter than a position player. He played in the outfield for the Hokkaido-based Nippon Ham Fighters.
The Angels play in the American League, which uses a designated hitter, while the National League does not.
“I think he is MLB ready on both fronts but development never stops,” Scioscia said.
“As excited as we are to see his arm and the way it is going to play on the mound and as excited as we are to see how his swing plays in the batter’s box, there is a lot of work ahead of all of us.
“As far as what his uses will be, you can script everything out now and the first pitch of the season everything changes.”
Ohtani, who pitches right-handed, had a 2.52 earned run average (ERA) in five seasons with the Nippon Ham-Fighters. The left-handed batter hit .332 in 2017 and has slugged 48 home runs in 1,035 career at-bats.
Ohtani’s two-way ability has prompted comparisons with Hall of Famer Babe Ruth, who hit a combined 40 home runs while batting .312 for the Boston Red Sox in 1918 and 1919.
Ruth also had a 2.55 ERA before he became a fulltime outfielder after being traded to the New York Yankees.
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Adelaide, Australia; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)