Angels’ Shohei Ohtani pitches, hits for first time in same game

Shohei Ohtani needed only 30 seconds in the dugout, trading his batting helmet and hitting gloves for a pitcher’s mitt and red cap.

Pitching and hitting in the same game for the first time in his Angels career, Ohtani took the mound for the bottom of the first inning already covered in dirt stains after hitting a single in the top of the inning.

As he loosened up his arm, more than 15 minutes removed from his pregame warm-up tosses, a San Diego Padres hype video played on the scoreboard. The accompanying song echoed around Peoria Stadium, repeating the same line over and over.

“That’s how you change the game.”

Changing the game is exactly what Ohtani hopes to do. His legend reborn this spring, the promise of his two-way potential re-emerging with every towering home run and triple-digit fastball, Ohtani’s latest fabled milestone unfolded Sunday.

As the Angels’ leadoff hitter, he had two hits and a walk.

As the Angels starting pitcher, he had five strikeouts in a one-run, four-inning outing, topping out at 101 mph with his fastball.

In the last 105 regular seasons of Major League Baseball, no player has batted leadoff for his team and pitched multiple innings as the starter. Ohtani made it look easy.

Granted, it was only a spring training exhibition. But less than two weeks away from opening day, Ohtani’s Cactus League tear continues to broaden the expectations of what might be possible in 2021.

In the leadoff spot, Ohtani singled on the second pitch of the game, hammering a line drive into left-center field to extend his spring hitting streak to nine games.

He spent the entire half-inning running the bases, returning to the dugout only after being forced out at second base on a fielder’s choice.

But once he stepped on the mound, the dual roles hardly seemed to affect him.

Ohtani gave up his lone run in the first, after Brian O’Grady tripled on a bouncing ball up the right-field line and scored on a groundout. Other than that, the Padres struggled to make hard contact.

He retired Fernando Tatis Jr. twice, first striking him out on a trademark splitter before forcing him into a pop-up on the infield. He also fanned Wil Myers with a splitter and froze Blake Snell, Jurickson Profar and Victor Caratini with breaking balls to strike them out looking.

He struggled with his command in the third inning, loading the bases with two walks and a single, but escaped without surrendering a run. His 62 pitches were his most of the spring.