By STEPHEN HAWKINS
AP Baseball Writer
Shohei Ohtani has thrown his final pitch this season for the Los Angeles Angels, and the two-way All-Star will focus on his at-bats in the final few games.
“There’s really nothing left to prove on the mound,” manager Joe Maddon said Wednesday. “He’s exceeded expectations on the mound this year.”
Ohtani then went out and set another offensive milestone, becoming the first American League player with at least 100 runs scored, 45 homers and 25 stolen bases in the same season, after he went 2 for 5 with a run and two stolen bases in a 7-2 victory at Texas on Wednesday night. He is hitting .258 with 45 homers and 98 RBIs.
Maddon said it was a mutual decision after a conversation with Ohtani (9-2, 3.18 ERA) that the strong AL MVP candidate not pitch in the season finale Sunday at Seattle.
“It’s really not complicated,” Maddon said. “He’s finished with two really strong outings and there’s really nothing to gain right now. So it’s probably the best thing to have him not pitch.”
The American League starting pitcher in the All-Star Game and also in the leadoff spot as the designated hitter, Ohtani struck out 10 batters in each of his final two pitching starts. The last was a no-decision in the home finale against the Mariners on Sunday, when he allowed one run over seven innings.
“Obviously if we were trying to make the playoffs and in a pennant race and not eliminated, he’d be the first guy out there. In this situation, we just didn’t see the upside,” general manager Perry Minasian said. “What he’s done has been pretty amazing. It’s been fun to watch. I look forward to seeing what he can do next year. I know this sounds crazy, but I still think there’s another level and I can’t wait to see it.”
Ohtani didn’t talk with the media Wednesday, when he joined Ichiro Suzuki and Hideki Matsui as the only Japanese-born players to score 100 runs in an MLB season. With four games remaining, Ohtani has exactly 100 runs and 26 stolen bases. Jose Canseco is the only other AL player with at least 45 homers and 25 stolen bases (46 and 29 for Toronto in 1998, when he had 98 runs).
After missing all of 2019 on the mound following Tommy John surgery, and pitching only twice last season, Ohtani threw 130 1/3 innings in 23 starts this year, with 156 strikeouts and 44 walks. The right-handed pitcher had thrown only 53 1/3 innings in 12 MLB starts before this year, 10 of those as a rookie in 2018.
“Going back to spring training when Perry was totally on board with him not having any kind of limitation, I think this could not have worked out any better” Maddon said. “I think 130 (innings) is a really nice number going into next year.”
This is Ohtani’s fourth season with the Angels (75-83), who will finish with a losing record for the sixth season in a row and extend their playoff drought to seven years. This 27-year-old sensation is the most accomplished two-way player since Babe Ruth, who last pitched regularly in 1919. Ohtani was the first two-way starter in the history of the All-Star Game, which began in 1933.
Ohtani said last weekend that although he likes the team, the fans and the atmosphere, his top priority is winning. Maddon responded Tuesday before the series opener in Texas, saying that Ohtani’s comments don’t mean he wants to leave the organization when he can become a free agent after the 2023 season.
“If anybody misconstrues that as though he wants to leave, that’s trying to connect some dots that weren’t necessarily what he, not at all what he said,” Maddon said then. “He also mentioned how much he loves it here. The inner sanctum of the clubhouse, the guys, the coaching staff, everything about it. The area. The fans. He loves them all. We all want to get to the next level, and we see it as an absolute possibility it’s going to happen here in the very near future.”
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