Hours after announcing he would participate in this year’s Home Run Derby at the All-Star Game in Denver next month, Los Angeles Angels designated hitter/pitcher Shohei Ohtani used Detroit Tigers pitching to tune up for it.
Ohtani hit homers to right-center and left-center field Friday night during Los Angeles’ 11-3 win that evened the Angels’ record at 35-35. Those were his 20th and 21st homers of the year, just one behind Toronto’s Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and San Diego’s Fernando Tatis Jr. for best in the majors.
Ohtani will take aim at the Detroit pitching staff again Saturday night when the teams continue their four-game weekend series in Anaheim, Calif. The Angels have won the first two games of the series.
Ohtani is the first Japanese player to participate in MLB’s version of the event. That’s not to say that he lacks any experience at it. He won the Japanese home run derby in 2016 and plans to use what he learned there next month.
“I remember trying to swing the bat too hard, like harder than normal,” he told mlb.com through an interpreter. “So this time around, I’m going to use that experience and take normal BP hacks and not try to do too much.”
Ohtani said he plans to have Angels bullpen catcher Jason Brown pitch to him at Coors Field, where in May 2018 he launched a batting practice homer that found the third deck in right-center field.
Los Angeles manager Joe Maddon said he isn’t concerned that Ohtani, whose 39 extra-base hits top the majors, might injure himself trying to swing for monstrous homers in the mile-high air.
“I just don’t function that way,” Maddon said. “This is an opportunity for him to showcase even more. I believe he’ll handle it properly. Nobody knows if someone will get hurt or if it affects performance afterward. It’s all conjecture.”
What isn’t conjecture is that Angels left-hander Patrick Sandoval (1-2, 3.51 ERA) has thrown well in his past three starts, capped by a 10-3 win Sunday in Arizona that was just his second victory in 13 major-league decisions. Sandoval checked the Diamondbacks on four hits and two runs in six innings, walking two and striking out four.
This will be his first career outing against the Tigers, who hope to regain the momentum they carried into this series. After earning a three-game sweep in Kansas City, they have been outscored 18-8 in the series’ first two games.
Detroit will turn to former Milwaukee rotation mainstay Wily Peralta, who will make his first MLB start since 2017 — his last season with the Brewers. After making 79 appearances out of the Kansas City bullpen in 2018 and 2019, the right-hander got back to the majors this week with the Tigers, firing 1 1/3 scoreless innings Tuesday night against the Royals.
Peralta has made four career appearances against Los Angeles, going 0-1 with a save and a 3.00 ERA. He’s filling the spot vacated by lefty Matthew Boyd, who went on the 10-day injured list after leaving Monday night in Kansas City with arm discomfort.
In 21 1/3 innings this year at Triple-A Toledo, Peralta pitched to a 2.75 ERA with 19 strikeouts and eight walks.
“I got better command of my pitches,” he told the Detroit Free Press. “Better movement with my two-seam.”
–Field Level Media