ST. LOUIS – One of baseball’s biggest stars comes to St. Louis next week. Shohei Ohtani and the Los Angeles Angels pay a visit to Busch Stadium for a three-game series from May 2-4.
Ohtani, one of few players in MLB history to excel as a hitter and pitcher at the same time, is quite the sensation.
His decorated resume includes an American League MVP and MVP runner-up honors, a Silver Slugger Award at DH and a fourth-place Cy Young finish over his last two full seasons. And just last month, Ohtani led Japan to a World Baseball Classic title behind several key hits and dominant stretches on the mound.
The Angels use Ohtani as a hitter on a near-daily basis and usually line him up for one start (or occasionally two) each week. With the Angels’ current setup, it seems there’s a very strong chance he could pitch in St. Louis next week.
Ohtani’s next start is scheduled for this Thursday, a series finale against their division rival Oakland Athletics. The Angels then head to Milwaukee for three games, followed by a three-game series in St. Louis.
Ohtani’s last visit to Busch Stadium came in 2019, though his opportunities were fairly limited and a bit overshadowed. He was dealing with some prolonged injuries that season. Also, there wasn’t a designated hitter rule at National League ballparks in his last go-around and longtime Cardinals star Albert Pujols took much of the attention that weekend for his first visit back to Busch Stadium as an opponent.
Fast-forward four years, Ohtani now has a chance to hit and pitch against any team in any given season, if he stays healthy and the opportunity allows, because of changes to scheduling and designated hitter rules. That makes his upcoming visit to St. Louis worth following closely.
The Los Angeles Angels have gradually shifted to a six-man rotation, allowing their starters extra rest from the conventional five-man rotation. However, with that in mind, Ohtani has pitched after four days rest in the past, the conventional timeline for starting pitchers in between outings.
In almost any case, it looks like Ohtani would pitch against the Cardinals on regular or extended rest. The Angels have not yet confirmed their pitching plans beyond the Milwaukee Series, but all of these scenarios are potentially in play.
- Tuesday (May 2): Los Angeles moves Ohtani up in his pitching schedule on normal four days rest to start the series opener. A stretch, but not entirely impossible.
- Wednesday (May 3): Los Angeles gives Ohtani his regular five days rest in between starts, but still moves him ahead in pitching schedule. That’s because the Angels have an off-day on Monday. That would mean a start in the middle game of the St. Louis series.
- Thursday (May 4): The most likely scenario… Ohtani gets his regular rest in between starts and Los Angeles maintains its current order in the pitching rotation without moving anyone else up or down. That would mean Ohtani gets the mound in the series finale.
The Angels are expected to update listings on their probable pitchers tab of their website as the Cardinals series draws closer. One Twitter account, called “Is Shohei Ohtani Pitching Tonight?” is also keeping track of his anticipated starts.
In many cases, when Ohtani has pitched this season, he has also hit in the Angels lineup as the designated hitter, another possibility against the Cardinals next week.
At a full-season, 162-game pace, Ohtani has averaged around 36 home runs, 98 RBI, 18 stolen bases and a .267 batting average as a hitter, in addition to a 16-7 record, 2.79 ERA, 189 innings pitched and 240 strikeouts as a pitcher. He can do it all, and better than most pitchers and hitters can individually.
From a Cardinals perspective, the other development worth following is his growing friendship with outfielder Lars Nootbaar. Both grew close during Japan’s WBC title run, and Ohtani even enjoyed Nootbaar’s signature pepper-grinder celebration during big moments. The upcoming series will be the first time the two reunite on a baseball field since March.
Ohtani is set to become a free agent this winter if he doesn’t agree to a new contract with the Angels. Because of his two-way skill set, baseball enthusiasts believe Ohtani could fetch a contract worth at least half a billion dollars next offseason. If so, that would make him the first player to reach such a figure.