(CBSLA) — It was an eventful opening weekend for Major League Baseball. All but two teams got in their first series, which, in the age of COVID, has to be considered a success. Some teams, like the Philadelphia Phillies have looked good. Other teams, like the Oakland A’s, have not. Ultimately, it’s still way too early in a 162-game season to draw any real conclusions. There’s a lot of baseball left to be played.
This week’s Baseball Report looks at Shohei Ohtani’s first two-way start of the season, MLB’s decision to move the All-Star Game out of Atlanta and the Washington Nationals-New York Mets series that didn’t happen.
Shohei Ohtani’s Impressive Start
The Los Angeles Angels’ two-way phenom looks ready to put 2020 behind him. After Tommy John surgery in late 2018, Ohtani didn’t pitch in 2019 and faced only 16 batters in 2020, walking eight of them. As a DH, he hit a respectable .286 with decent power in 2019, but that slipped down to .190 in limited at-bats last season.
Ohtani flashed more of that two-way potential in Spring Training. And that momentum seems to have carried over into the regular season. On Sunday, against the Chicago White Sox, he started on the mound and hit second in the lineup. It was the first time in the age of the designated hitter that MLB saw a true two-way player. It was also the first time in well over a century that a pitcher hit that high in the order.
Ohtani’s first pitch clocked in at 98 miles per hour, and he topped 100 in the first inning. In the bottom half of the inning, he smashed the first pitch he saw 450 feet, deep into the seats in right center.
Shohei Ohtani threw a pitch 101-mph and hit a home run 450-feet…
… IN THE SAME INNING!
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) April 5, 2021
The last pitcher to hit one out in the first seven spots was Babe Ruth almost 90 years ago.
The game continued promisingly enough for Ohtani. He lined out on a hard-hit ball in his second at-bat and pitched four innings of shutout ball. Ohtani’s control on the mound wasn’t great at times, and completely failed him in his last inning. But he was still able to keep his speed up near 100.
The Angels are dedicated to continuing the two-way experiment with the 26-year-old this season. And early evidence suggests that it might actually be a success. Look for Ohtani to DH or pinch hit whenever he’s not on the mound.
All-Star Game Moved To Denver
MLB has decided to move the All-Star Game, originally scheduled for July 13 in Atlanta, to Denver. The switch from the Braves’ Truist Park came as a response to Georgia’s recent efforts to pass what appears to be a more restrictive voting law.
A statement from MLB commissioner Rob Manfred reads in part:
“Major League Baseball fundamentally supports voting rights for all Americans and opposes restrictions to the ballot box. In 2020, MLB became the first professional sports league to join the non-partisan Civic Alliance to help build a future in which everyone participates in shaping the United States. We proudly used our platform to encourage baseball fans and communities throughout our country to perform their civic duty and actively participate in the voting process. Fair access to voting continues to have our game’s unwavering support.”
The sweeping overhaul, passed by a Republican-controlled legislature and signed by Republican governor Brian Kemp, contains a grab bag of new measures. The law adds a photo ID requirement for absentee voting by mail, cuts the time to request those ballots and limits the availability of drop boxes. It also bans the handing out of food and water to voters waiting in the state’s notoriously long election poll lines. These and many additional measures would serve to limit voting in a state that’s recently seen some closely contended elections.
The game will be played on the same day as previously scheduled, but at Coors Field, home of the Colorado Rockies.
“Major League Baseball is grateful to the Rockies, the City of Denver and the State of Colorado for their support of this summer’s All-Star Game,” said Manfred, in another statement. “We appreciate their flexibility and enthusiasm to deliver a first-class event for our game and the region. We look forward to celebrating our sport’s best players and entertaining fans around the world.”
Coors Field last hosted the All-Star Game in 1998. It was chosen because the Rockies were already part of the bidding process to host a future game.
Mets And Nationals Postponed Due To COVID
The New York Mets and Washington Nationals started off the season by not playing baseball. Their Opening Day game last Thursday, and eventually the entire series, was postponed following positive tests from four Nationals players. Because five other players had been in close contact with them, a total of nine players entered quarantine. With staff included, that number has since increased to 13.
No names have been released. But shortstop Trea Turner, first baseman Josh Bell, left fielder Kyle Schwarber, along with starting pitcher Patrick Corbin were among the players missing from Monday’s team workout.
The Nationals are now scheduled to start their season on Tuesday against the Atlanta Braves, after Monday’s game was also postponed. Max Scherzer will get the start. The Mets opened their season Monday with a 5-3 loss to the Phillies.