Angels’ Shohei Ohtani makes case to start in All-Star Game

It’s less than a week until the All-Star Game at Dodger Stadium. On Wednesday, Dusty Baker, who will lead the American League team, had a chance to see one of his potential starting pitchers in person at Angel Stadium.

Shohei Ohtani delivered another outstanding performance on both the mound and plate as the Angels played Bakers Houston Astros.

Ohtani racked up 12 strikeouts, walked two batters and gave up four hits and one earned run over six innings and 105 pitches. He became only the second pitcher in Angels history to have 10 or more strikeouts in four consecutive starts. The other pitcher who did this was Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan.

Ohtani also contributed two RBI to a triple he hit Astros starter Cristian Javier in the second inning and got a single-off release Bryan Abreu in the sixth inning — he trailed in the sixth during the team’s four-run rally drove home. The Angels beat the Astros 7-1.

“He’s not just an all-star, he’s a megastar,” Baker said of Ohtani before the game. “He’s one of the best offensive players and one of the best throwers. And he’s smart – I can tell by the way he plays the game that he’s not just talented, he’s smart too.”

Ohtani was named an AL Starting Designated Hitter and was named to the list of eligible starting pitchers for the All-Star Game for the second year in a row. He was the first player to be a starting pitcher and finish on top, which happened during the 2021 Midsummer Classic.

He’s a fan favorite to start the game for a potential pitching matchup with the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw.

Baker said Tuesday that Astros ace Justin Verlander would not be in the All-Star Game, so that rules him out.

Another statistically more deserving starter, however, would be Tampa Bay Rays left-hander Shane McClanahan.

McClanahan Wednesday had the best ERA in baseball (1.71) among this season’s starting pitchers. He also recorded 147 strikeouts with just 19 walks over 18 starts (10-3). For reference, before Wednesday, Ohtani had a 2.44 ERA with 111 strikeouts and 20 walks over 14 starts (8-4).

Angels pitcher Shohei Ohtani slides safely into third base with a second inning triple.

Angels pitcher Shohei Ohtani slips safely into third base with a triple from the second inning while Houston Astros third baseman Alex Bregman waits for the ball at Angel Stadium Wednesday.

(Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

But that’s all Baker has to decide until Monday, the day before the All-Star Game.

Baker said Wednesday he’s just started figuring out how to manage his all-star roster, which starts with reaching out to those players’ managers to find out how they’re feeling and if they’re going to Playing available is the game and your overall comfort level when playing in the game.

“I have to take care of their players as well as mine,” Baker said, explaining that he knows not every available player will be feeling 100% healthy. “I know the game doesn’t count… You might play to win, but you don’t win at all costs in this situation,” Baker added.

He had a roughly 15-minute call with Angels interim manager Phil Nevin ahead of Wednesday’s game to find out more about Ohtani, whether he prefers to start or ease off. He had no firm plan Wednesday afternoon whether Ohtani would start a second straight All-Star Game, but said it was possible he would serve in that first inning.

Among the players Baker had inquired about was Mike Trout, who was not in the Angels’ starting lineup Wednesday. Trout was pulled out of mid-game Tuesday with upper back spasms.

Trout said ahead of Wednesday’s game that he was feeling a lot better than the night before and that he’d started to feel pain in his back and played it through. As of Tuesday night, his upper back felt more uncomfortable.

Athletic coach Mike Frostad said he found out about Trout’s back problem when the team was in Miami for a series with the Marlins last week. Trout had an MRI and CT scan Tuesday night that showed no structural damage. Frostad and Nevin will continue to check him out, but neither worries that Trout will be put on the injured list.

Trout was also optimistic that he could play in the All-Star Game. Angels’ Shohei Ohtani makes case to start in All-Star Game

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