The question that continues to pop up here at the GM meetings, especially to the general managers but even beat writers, is if a team would allow Shohei Ohtani, the Babe Ruth of Japan, to play both ways.
The general assumption among the Japanese media is that a team that allowed him to do so will have the inside track toward signing him. The general assumption among others is that letting Ohtani pitch and play outfield would be a foolish thing to do.
It seems as if club executives feel that way, too.
The No. 1 strike against letting Ohtani bat between starts, even if only in one or two games, would be injury. That’s really the only strike that matters, right?
Were he to be injured as a hitter or an outfielder, a team would be losing a starting pitcher and a bat from the lineup. The Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters learned that in 2017.
Ohtani is a right-hander who bats left-handed, which means his right arm would be exposed to every pitch thrown his way. There’s another avenue toward injury.
But expect most interested clubs to say they are open to letting Ohtani dabble in the batter’s box, and then conveniently find a way — perhaps a bad spring start — to tell him that to be able to be a great pitcher who works every fifth day as opposed to every seventh as he did in Japan, he needs to put his bat and helmet away.
To Ohtani’s credit, he told reporters in Japan over the weekend that it’s not his decision.
“I don’t know if I’ll be given the chance to be able to do it, so first of all, I’ll have to listen to what they say,” Ohtani said. “You can’t go after something like that unless you’re in the right circumstance. It’s not just about what I want to do.”