Baseball: Ohtani praises MLB flexibility with new DH rule

Reigning American League MVP Shohei Ohtani on Thursday welcomed a new rule's approval that will make his work as a two-way batting and pitching star much easier.

"This kind of movement didn't happen during my time in Japan," Ohtani said after Major League Baseball announced the approval of its new "Amended Designated Hitter Rule."

"I feel grateful that the American side has taken a more flexible approach."

The rule, called by some the "Ohtani Rule," will allow teams to list a player as both a pitcher and designated hitter, meaning a pitcher can leave the mound but remain in the batting lineup as DH.

It became an issue last season, when Angels manager Joe Maddon frequently played games without a designated hitter so that Ohtani could both pitch and hit.

The downside came when Ohtani left the mound in those games. His bat would be lost to the Angels unless he took another position, while the Angels' other pitchers would take a spot in the batting order.

Fans got a preview of the new rule at last year's All-Star Game, when MLB allowed Ohtani to be both the AL's starting pitcher and starting DH.

Maddon's use of Ohtani mimicked how the slugging pitcher was sometimes used in 2016, when he was named MVP's of Japan's Pacific League, its best pitcher and its best DH.

Nippon Professional Baseball, however, did not rush to capitalize on its new star's possibilities in 2017 the way MLB has for 2022.

Last year, Ohtani won nine games as a pitcher and struck out 156 batters, while both driving in and scoring at least 100 runs, and hitting 46 home runs. He said he is in better shape this year, and believes the new rule will simplify his work.

"I'll be able to pitch more aggressively," Ohtani said. "Last year (in games without the DH) the team would be in a tough spot if I failed to pitch well for five or six innings, and that put me under a lot of pressure."

"Removing that one thing is huge. I think now I'll be able to go all out from the very start."

© Kyodo News