Shohei Ohtani’s mentor ‘relieved’ he’s thriving; Angels lose to Twins

The day before last month’s All-Star Game, Shohei Ohtani said he wanted to play next March’s World Baseball Classic and felt the Angels would let him. And on Friday, before the team’s 4-0 home loss to the Minnesota Twins, one of Ohtani’s mentors stopped by for just that reason.

Hideki Kuriyama — the manager of Ohtani’s Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters and manager of Japan’s national baseball team called Samurai Japan — was on a nationwide tour to meet with Major League Baseball players who could potentially compete for Japan’s WBC team .

Kuriyama had not discussed the WBC with Ohtani when contacting reporters ahead of the Angels game and had no answer as to whether Ohtani would play for Japan.

He was asked to reflect on the Ohtani he coaches compared to the reigning American League’s most valuable player that he is today.

“I worked with him for five years and I sent him here because I thought he could do it,” Kuriyama said in Japanese. “As someone trusted by their parents to do more than just be happy or feel, I’m relieved he’s doing like this in the majors.

“He was the kind of player who could perform on the world stage and we picked him up from high school. I would have felt responsible if things hadn’t gone well here. I think I’ll be happy when he’s done with baseball.”

Ohtani joined the Fighters from high school after Kuriyama and the team convinced him to progress in Japan rather than attempt to progress through MLB’s minor league system.

Angels star Shohei Ohtani meets the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday.

Angels star Shohei Ohtani meets the Oakland Athletics on Tuesday.

(Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

Kuriyama was also one of the people who believed Ohtani could become a two-way star instead of just being a pitcher.

“In Japan, to make sure we didn’t break his body, we gave him days off after he hit the ground,” Kuriyama said when asked about the difference between Ohtani then and now. “Due to the fact that he can play so many games, I’m sure he will have five days rest from here. It’s different from Japan.”

Kuriyama felt pressure to help Ohtani grow.

Hideki Kuriyama, then manager of the Nippon-Ham Fighters, speaks to a referee during an exhibition match March 17, 2019.

Hideki Kuriyama, then manager of the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, speaks to a referee during an exhibition match March 17, 2019.

(Eugene Hoshiko/Associated Press)

“When Shohei decided to join the Fighters, I was happy for about three seconds,” Kuriyama said, laughing. “The responsibility of handling a treasure is enormous. So I was relieved when he left.”

Today he is not surprised by Ohtani’s success.

“In Japan, he overcame challenges that people thought were impossible,” Kuriyama said. “How high can he clear? No one looked up at his ceiling like I did. Even now I think he can do more.”

On Friday night, Ohtani went 0 for 4 and knocked out twice. During his second strike, he and the crowd were dissatisfied with a strike call. Panel judge Cory Blaser was booed and a camera feeding to the jumbotron at Angel Stadium panned to Kuriyama watching Ohtani.

Updates on Mike Trout, other injured angels

The Angels season has gone awry for a number of reasons.

Among them are the unusual injuries that have hampered the team almost every step of the way.

From Mike Trout’s unusual back injury to Anthony Rendon’s wrist injury, here’s how three of the Angels with the strangest injuries fared during their recovery.

Trout, who was diagnosed in July with costovertebral dysfunction at T5 – a joint in the thoracic region of his back where a rib connects to his spine – has continued to make progress on his return.

The slugger said on Friday that aside from starting to hit a tee shot, he was able to play catches in the batting cages and will start hitting on the field on Saturday.

“Everything feels good,” Trout said.

Angels center fielder Mike Trout.

Angels center fielder Mike Trout.

(Julio Cortez/Associated Press)

There’s no timeline for the Star Center fielder’s return yet, and no plan on whether he’ll need a rehabilitation assignment, but Trout said he hopes to return “sooner rather than later.”

Trout injuries were thought to be uncommon as they mainly occur in athletes playing contact sports, although overuse of this joint, for example from swinging a racquet too hard, could also be a factor.

Rendon, a third baseman, saw his season ended early again in June with a partially dislocated wrist tendon. The injury first surfaced during an at-bat on May 8. He required surgery at the end of the season to fix the tendon – which he tried to delay by playing through the pain and discomfort.

On Friday before the Angels game, Rendon took ground balls onto the field. The hope is that he will be done with rehab from surgery by winter so he can have a normal off-season ahead of next spring training.

Back-up pitcher Archie Bradley broke his elbow when he fell over the dugout railing in late June while trying to get to the Seattle Mariners brawl. The injury required a minimum four-week shutdown from pitching.

There is cautious optimism that Bradley could return this season. Angels athletic coach Mike Frostad said Bradley could start throwing next week but added: “Whether that gives us enough time or not [to get him back] is still in the air. … He’s still a long way away.”

Patrick Sandoval gets no support as Angels lose

Angels starter Patrick Sandoval plays during the second inning on August 12, 2022.

Angels starter Patrick Sandoval gave up two runs in five innings Friday night and accepted the loss in a 4-0 loss to the Twins.

(Ashley Landis/Associated Press)

Patrick Sandoval could only watch as the Twins’ Gilberto Celestino smacked his 1-and-1 slider over the left field wall and into the scorer’s bullpen for a two-run homer in the second inning.

The Angels’ starting pitcher, with a normally reliable slider, was hit hard on this pitch. It was the offense the Twins needed as the Angels lost 4-0.

Sandoval went five innings, giving up two runs and five hits. He walked four and hit four over 95 pitches, only 55 for strikes.

His first walk happened to the first batter he faced, Byron Buxton.

“I’m not happy with the way I threw the ball today,” Sandoval said of not having his best stuff. “Four walks is embarrassing. Big props for the defense behind me making big plays.

“There were some at-bats, and then some at-bats, it just wasn’t. It’s just frustrating.”

One of those big defensive plays came in the third. The Twins’ Sandy Leon, walking home, was trying to get home with a Jose Miranda single. Angels left fielder Jo Adell threw in time for catcher Max Stassi and elicited cheers from the home crowd.

The Angels caught just three hits from Twins starter Tyler Mahle – who came into the game with a 4.49 earned run average. Minnesota acquired the right-hander in a trade with the Cincinnati Reds as of this year’s deadline.

Two of those three goals came from David Fletcher, who continued to impress on the plate after returning from a serious injury. He underwent surgery in May to repair adductors in both legs and an abdominal muscle. He had two singles on Friday but was stranded both times.

So were Luis Rengifo and Steven Duggar. Rengifo’s double in the sixth went into the right corner of field, allowing Duggar, who reached base on foot, to move into third.

Rengifo scored another hit in the ninth inning.

Minnesota added insurance runs in the sixth and eighth innings. In the sixth, Gio Urshela hit a homered from Angels reliever Mike Mayers. Luis Arraez’s RBI single two innings later was also lost to Mayers. Shohei Ohtani’s mentor ‘relieved’ he’s thriving; Angels lose to Twins

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