DETROIT (AP) — Shohei Ohtani looked so eager to make an impact in his highly anticipated season debut that he swung so hard his helmet flew off his head more than once.
He finished 0 for 4 with an RBI groundout and walked once as the Los Angeles Angels beat the Detroit Tigers 5-2 Tuesday night.
“I was happy to get this out of the way,” Ohtani said through a translator.
The Angels activated the AL Rookie of the Year from the injured list and it appeared simulated games didn’t quite prepare him for the moment. Ohtani took a called third strike in his first at-bat, grounded out to help Los Angeles take a 3-0 lead in the third, struck out on a breaking pitch, lined out to third and drew a base on balls.
“Baseball is certainly not the type of sports that you focus on one night,” Angels manager Brad Ausmus said. “We’re looking at using him as a DH for the vast majority of the next 4½ months. I’m not overly concerned about the immediate results, but just the long-term results.”
The 24-year-old two-way player isn’t expected to pitch this year as he recovers from the Tommy John surgery he had in October. But the Angels, who are under .500, are hoping he can provide a boost at the plate.
“He injects some offense, for sure,” Ausmus said. “He’s got big power.”
Ohtani hit .285 with 22 homers and 61 RBIs in 367 plate appearances last year. He became the first player since Babe Ruth with at least 10 homers and four pitching wins in the same season. As a DH, Ohtani became the first player with 15 homers as a batter and 50 strikeouts as a pitcher in the same season.
He was 4-2 with a 3.31 ERA and 63 strikeouts over 51 2/3 innings in 10 starts, limited by a torn right elbow ligament that required surgery. Ohtani has said he has “no regrets” about last year when he hit for the Angels until season’s end and delaying reconstructive surgery and his ability to pitch again until 2020.
Griffin Canning (1-0) earned the win in his second career start, giving up two runs and four hits over 5 1/3 innings while striking out seven.
“I definitely have the advantage, these guys haven’t faced me ever,” he said. “The last two teams I faced, I never faced their minor league teams.”
Luke Bard and Ty Buttrey combined for 2 2/3 innings of scoreless relief and Hansel Robles pitched the ninth for his third save in as many chances.
Daniel Norris (1-1) allowed three runs, five hits and two walks over five innings.
“I was pretty happy with my stuff, but I got us into a hole in the third inning and I can’t do that,” he said.
Eduard Jimenez, who pitched a scoreless inning in his major league debut, was one of five relievers who combined to give up two runs.
The Tigers failed to generate much offense, scoring just two runs in the sixth inning on Nicholas Castellanos’ triple and Miguel Cabrera’s single.
Angels: RHP Cody Allen (lumbar spine strain) and IF Zack Cozart (neck strain) were activated from the injured list before the series opener.
Tigers: OF Christin Stewart (right quad strain) was evaluated in Detroit and is expected to be activated this weekend at Minnesota. … RHP Jordan Zimmermann (sprained elbow) played catch for a second consecutive day as part of a throwing program.
Detroit manager Ron Gardenhire left the dugout early in the game, leaving bench coach Steve Liddle to lead the team.
“Gardy had an allergic reaction to something he ate or drank and the doctors wanted to make sure he was OK,” Liddle said. “He didn’t have trouble breathing or anything like that, but he broke out into hives and was swelling up a little. That can be serious, so they took him upstairs. He’s fine now.”
HE SAID IT
Ausmus was booed in his return to Detroit, where he had two winning and two losing seasons before the franchise let him go following the 2017 season.
What went wrong?
“You can just keep blaming me,” Ausmus said. “It makes it easier.”
Angels: LHP Tyler Skaggs (3-2, 3.12) has won two starts, giving up a total of two runs, since returning from a sprained left ankle.
Tigers: LHP Matthew Boyd (3-2, 3.05) has made six straight quality starts and ranks among AL leaders with 57 strikeouts.