Shohei Ohtani made a unique start to the 2023 season by using a PitchCom gadget tucked beneath his uniform, close to his left shoulder, to place his own throws. The only change from his typical supremacy was Ohtani’s new appearance, in which he appeared to prod at his underarm prior to each throw.
On Thursday night in Oakland, he faced the Athletics and pitched six innings of scoreless relief while fanning 10 and allowing just two hits. In 93 attempts, he only managed to fire 55 strikeouts while walking three times. The Los Angeles Angels would later lose the game 2-1 after Oakland scored two runs off reliever Aaron Loup in the bottom of the eighth. Loup got just one out and referred to it as “probably the most embarrassing outing of my career.”
Because of the limitations of the pitch clock, Ohtani decided to call his own game, but it immediately seemed to run into problems; before throwing his second pitch of the game, catcher Logan O’Hoppe had to call time to ask him to reenter the code on the device, and O’Hoppe hurried out to the mound after Ohtani threw his next pitch. The two reverted to their caveman ways for the remainder of the inning, with O’Hoppe indicating to Ohtani.
O’Hoppe said, “He probably could have been more unhittable if we had PitchCom in the first inning. You want to go to a different pitch, but you don’t have enough fingers.” Ohtani claimed the failure knocked him out of his cadence.
To begin the second inning, the conversation picked back up, and Ohtani found himself in an effective rut. He is nothing if not certain when he is in control. On foul balls, he frequently felt under his arm to summon the next pitch before taking the baseball, and he frequently punched in his pitch selection before the pitch clock even started. Home-plate judge Adrian Johnson visited him following the fifth inning.
Ohtani stated, “He said I was throwing a little early. Prior to the hitter entering the box.
One out, Aledmys Diaz at third, and Seth Brown at second put Ohtani in danger in the fourth with just one out. After that, in quick sequence, he struck out Ramon Laureano and Jesus Aguilar, the latter of whom was hit by a 101 mph heater.
Mike Trout shook his head, “That sequence right there.” He changed from being powerful to unhittable.
(There’s always a number to tell the tale of Ohtani and the Angels: according to MLB’s Sarah Langs, there have been 25 prior instances in which an Opening Day pitcher struck out 10 batters while giving up 0 runs, and those pitchers’ teams were 25-0 in those contests.)
Ohtani’s decision to make his own throws deprives fans of one of the game’s most distinctive pleasures: watching Ohtani perpetually shake off his catcher while sporting a bemused expression. However, the change is necessary due to the pitch time and the massive selection of throws at his command.
Before the contest, Phil Nevin, the manager of the Angels, said, “Shohei’s got so many strikes he can fire. Time is running out because sometimes that object can’t speak quickly enough for him to go through them and jiggle them.
Just one week ago, Major League Baseball authorised the use of PitchCom for pitchers; this system reverses the normal pitch selection process, with the pitcher receiving the decision through a speaker in his hat rather than the catcher. Other pitchers, primarily substitutes, are calling their own throws using the device while holding it on their non-throwing hand or elbow so they can readily see the figures as they enter them in. Ohtani uses PitchCom in a unique way because he has to memorise the keyboard because he can’t see the numbers.
Ohtani’s single to right in the fourth inning—his only hit of the contest—came on a strong grounder that unquestionably would have been an out had the shift not been made illegal. It was a night of new regulations. It was an indication, according to Ohtani, that left-handed batters would no longer be at a deficit.
It’s now a level playing ground, he declared.
Ohtani’s skipper for the A’s, Mark Kotsay, said of him: “As a fan, you have to see it. He throws 100 and then steps up to the plate and hits the ball where he wants to. What’s not to like?”