Shohei Ohtani says he is available for potential WBC final

Shohei Ohtani told Japanese media on Sunday that he would be available to pitch out of the bullpen in Tuesday’s World Baseball Classic final if Japan beats Mexico in the semifinals.

Otani told reporters, “I don’t think there’s any chance of me starting, but I certainly want to prepare to pitch in relief.” “It will depend on my physical condition. Up to this point, the team has really listened to my selfish requests and there are a lot of things I’ve been doing that they’ve tolerated. It’s the end of the end. From here on out, I’m Want to discuss with the body and take a decision.”

Otani allowed two runs on four hits and threw 71 pitches over 4 ⅔ innings in Japan’s quarterfinal victory in Tokyo on Thursday night. One of the pitches was a 102-mph fastball—the hardest pitch he had ever thrown as a professional. Considering the time difference, Ohtani will pitch on Tuesday on 4½ days’ rest. He never pitched on less than five days’ rest.

The Angels’ two-way superstar has been one of the best pitchers and hitters in the tournament. At the plate, he is 7 for 16 (.438) with one home run, three doubles, eight walks and eight RBI. On the mound, he gave up two runs – both against Italy – in 8 ⅔ innings over two starts.

Japan manager Hideki Kuriyama declined to say whether Ohtani would start.

“With regard to pitching, there are strategic issues and there are also considerations about his body,” Kuriyama said after Japan’s workout at Londepo Park. “I really can’t say at this point.”

For Ohtani’s pitching availability, Japan must beat Mexico in Monday’s semifinals. Rookie Sasaki, perhaps the best pitcher in the world who isn’t in the major leagues, will start for the Japanese opposite Patrick Sandoval of the Angels.

Sasaki is 21 years old. He has got a 100 mph ball. Last April, he threw a perfect game with 19 strikeouts for the Chiba Lotte. He followed the outing with eight perfect innings and 14 strikeouts before he was ejected from the scoreless game as a precaution.

“He is young from an age perspective,” Kuriyama said, “but he is a pitcher who has progressed to this point in being a pitcher with the ability to develop at the same pace as his body.”

Sasaki has said that his dream is to play in the majors. The question is when.

“I think I will play in Japan,” Sasaki said through an interpreter. “And then I think when I’m going to shift will become somewhat clear.”

Ohtani, 28, was once a phenom in Japan as well. He has proven pitching – and hitting – success in Japan for the majors. Velocity plays anywhere and has both. If Japan reaches the finals, both talents could square off on one of the biggest baseball stages in the world.

Staff columnist Dylan Hernandez contributed to this report.

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