When Shohei Ohtani announced his intention to join Major League Baseball this offseason, it added an intriguing element to free agent market. The Nippon-Ham Fighters fulfilled his request, and soon emerged a plethora of interested suitors.
While the Los Angeles Dodgers were among the seven finalists to sign the two-way star, Ohtani eventually inked a contract with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. It’s believed he preferred signing with an American League team to maximize his talents offensively as a designated hitter, on days where he isn’t scheduled to pitch.
On Wednesday, Ohtani was tasked with stepping up to the plate against Dodgers’ ace Clayton Kershaw. In his lone at-bat against the three-time Cy Young Award winner, he struck out looking on a nasty breaking ball.
Despite the end result, Ohtani relished the opportunity of facing Kershaw and believes he learned a lot from the opportunity, via Ken Gurnick of MLB.com:
“I’ve been watching Kershaw pitch on TV a lot but of course it felt a lot different actually standing at the plate against him,” Ohtani said through a translator. “It is still Spring Training games, but it was somewhat of a special moment to be able to face Kershaw. I learned a lot from that at-bat, facing him.”
Kershaw wasn’t as impressed with his encounter with Ohtani. After completing his outing on Wednesday, Kershaw wished the Japanese star luck, but otherwise didn’t care at all about facing him.
Furthermore, Kershaw was critical of Ohtani’s recruiting process. He called the Dodgers’ meeting with Ohtani a “waste of time”.
Teammate Justin Turner shared similar sentiments, as the pair believes Ohtani had already made a decision on where he would sign before gathering with Dodgers officials.