Baseball: Angels' Ohtani hits 99 mph in spring mound debut

© Kyodo News

Two-way star Shohei Ohtani threw a 99-mile-per-hour pitch in his first mound appearance of 2022 in the Los Angeles Angels' 8-5 preseason loss to the Kansas City Royals at Tempe Diablo Stadium on Monday.

The reigning American League MVP said he was working more on refining his mechanics than increasing his speed, saying the only time he threw hard is when he tried to be aggressive in two-strike counts.

He threw 2-1/3 innings and struck out five of the 11 hitters he faced, throwing 33 of his 50 pitches for strikes. He gave up one run on three hits and a hit-by-pitch.

"I had fun pitching today. I wanted to get the feel of specific pitches and was able to do that, so I hope I feel smoother in my next outing," said Ohtani, whose fastest pitch reached 159 kilometers per hour.

"My main focus (until Opening Day) is to take a close look at each pitch and get the most out of these live-game situations."

In Saturday's 12-5 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks, the 27-year-old Japanese went 1-for-2 with an RBI single to left in the second inning. On Monday, he showed that he is big-league ready on both sides of the ball by picking up where he left off last year.

MLB spring training has been shortened this year due to the three-month lockout, but Ohtani said he will try not to overexert himself as he pursues peak condition for the April 7 open of the 2022 season, when 16 of 30 teams including the Angels play their first games.

"I think I'm in good physical condition. I'll try not to rush things as I gear up," Ohtani said.

Ohtani said he looks forward to the day he faces slugging outfielder Seiya Suzuki, a fellow Japanese player who found a new home in Major League Baseball by agreeing to a five-year deal reportedly worth $85 million with the Chicago Cubs last week.

Suzuki has brought much interest since he was posted by the Hiroshima Carp in November, and has been dubbed by some as the next Ohtani with the bat.

"He's the only (Japanese) player in the United States who's my age so I want to play against him. He's in the National League so I guess it's unlikely, but I hope that chance comes around," Ohtani said.