TEMPE, Ariz. (AP)Shohei Ohtani is concentrating on what could be his final season with the Los Angeles Angels and not on free agency next fall.
”This is my last year, I’m aware of this. As of now I’m an Angel and that’s all I’m focused on,” Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara on Thursday.
Angels manager Phil Nevin said the two-way star will be on the mound for the March 30 opener at Oakland, which Ohtani called ”a great honor.” First, Ohtani will report to Japan for the World Baseball Classic.
While Ohtani said he is open to a long-term contract with the Angels, he said repeatedly he wants to focus on 2023.
”I’m not really an expert on the free-agent market,” he said. ”I’ve never been through it, so I don’t know what it feels like.”
Ohtani was runner-up to the Yankees’ Aaron Judge in American League MVP after winning the honor in 2021, Ohtani was 15-9 with a 2.33 ERA while hitting 34 homers and driving in 95 runs.
”Certainly it can be a distraction for people, but Shohei’s mental toughness has impressed me more than anything,” Nevin said,
Ohtani ssaid the new pitch clock rule is the biggest hurdle he has to deal with.
Los Angeles went 73-89 last year, finishing 33 games behind first place Houston in the West and 13 games back of the last wild card. The Angels added former Dodgers left-hander Tyler Anderson for their rotation and traded for outfielder Hunter Renfroe and infielder Gio Urshela.
”I firmly believe they want to win as much as I do, but I can’t really tell you what they really are thinking,” Ohtani said. ”But I would like to believe it.”
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