Japanese phenom Ohtani ‘honoured’

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Shohei Ohtani, the Los Angeles Angels’ two-way phenom from Japan, is no stranger to home run derbies. After all, he won Japan’s version in 2016.

But Ohtani, who has slugged six home runs in 84 at-bats as the Angels’ part-time DH – when he’s not taking his turn in their starting rotation – is fielding questions about whether he would take part in Major League Baseball’s home run derby this year if he is invited.

For now, the lefty-swinging, righty-throwing Ohtani, who is in his first season in the US, is saying he’s “honoured to be in that conversation.”

He made the comments after doing the other half of his job, pitching the Angels to a 5-2 win over the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday. He struck out nine in 7 2/3 innings in running his record to 4-1 and lowering his ERA to 3.35.

Official invitations to the derby are not expected for another month or so. This year’s festivities will be at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C., on July 16, the day before the All-Star Game.

Ohtani is averaging a home run every 14 at-bats.

“I don’t think I’m at that level yet,” he also said about a possible derby appearance.

His most recent home run was Thursday against the Rays, and he put on a show in batting practice on Friday, launching a shot that hit the video board in right field at Angel Stadium. If anybody is counting – and the Angels were – it was estimated at 519 feet.

If Angels manager Mike Scioscia has any concerns about Ohtani possibly taking centre stage in the home run fest, he’s not voicing them.

“That’s a player’s decision,” Scioscia said, according to mlb.com. “I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of things that come into what a player decides, but it’s always been the prerogative of a player if he wants to participate in things like that.”

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