Ohtani does it again: Angels two-way star selected as All-Star pitcher

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
For the third year in a row, Shohei Ohtani was named to the All-Star team as both a pitcher and designated hitter.

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Shohei Ohtani has done it again. 

After being voted in as the designated hitter for the 2023 American League All-Star Team for the third time in his career, it was announced via ESPN on Sunday afternoon that the two-way sensation was also selected as a pitcher for the team. 

“It’s quite an honor. He was voted in as the DH and deservingly so. To get this opportunity to go in as a pitcher is pretty cool,” said Angels manager Phil Nevin.

The 28-year-old made All-Star history in 2021 when he became the first player in MLB to be selected as both a pitcher and position player in the same season. The July 11 game at T-Mobile Park will mark his third straight year joining the team as a pitcher and designated hitter. 

During Phase 1 of voting for the 2023 Scotts MLB All-Star Ballot, Ohtani received 2,646,307 fan votes which secured him a spot early in the All-Star process. His election to the AL DH spot didn’t come as much of a surprise given his power at the plate and the sheer amount of awe-worthy offensive moments that have filled the season up to this point. 

After Sunday’s 5-2 victory against the NL West leaders, the Arizona Diamondbacks, he’s slashing .306/.390/.670 with a 1.060 OPS, and he currently leads MLB with 31 home runs. 

He also tops the MLB in slugging, OPS, total bases and extra base hits. In the month of June alone, Ohtani batted .394 with seven doubles, three triples, 15 home runs and 29 RBIs to complete the month with a .492 OBP, a .952 SLG and a 1.444 OPS. 

It’s also worth noting that his 30th home run hit on June 30 against the Diamondbacks flew 493 feet, the longest hit home run in the Majors so far this season. 

“Listen, I took batting practice with Shohei one time and I looked like a 12 year old,” joked fellow left handed hitter, Mickey Moniak, who contributed to the Angels 5-2 victory with a 3-run home run. “He’s special. It’s been a privilege to get to play with him and get to watch him. I’m excited to roll this into the second half and see where he ends up at the end of the year.” 

On the mound, Ohtani ranks sixth in the AL for ERA, throwing to the beat of 3.02 ERA through 16 games this season (95.1 innings pitched). He also leads the Majors in opponent batting average (.180) and ranks third in strikeouts with 127. 

“I’m proud of him,” said Nevin. “He’s worked hard. He had some ups and downs this year on the mound, but he’s certainly been a staple for us in our rotation.” 

Nevin clarified that he doesn’t know if Ohtani will pitch next Tuesday as that will be up to the AL All-Star coaches, but he’ll make his final start before the All-Star break on Tuesday on the road against the San Diego Padres, which should give him plenty of time to rest before the All-Star game if he chooses to pitch. 

“Whatever he wants to do, I’m very supportive and I’m not going to take these opportunities away from my players. Just as I said in March for the WBC, these are opportunities and special moments in his career that you never forget. I’m excited for him, whatever he chooses to do,” said Nevin. 

Joining Ohtani in Seattle for the Midsummer Classic will be teammate Mike Trout, who was named to the All-Star team for the 11th time in his career. Trout joins Baltimore’s Cal Ripken Jr., Kansas City’s George Brett and Seattle’s Ken Griffey as the fourth player in American League history to receive 10 fan elections with one club. 

As the Halos celebrate yet another historic season for Ohtani, it’s worth noting two other players whose names were brought into All-Star contention status this year, but ultimately, did not make the cut, as of Sunday. 

Brandon Drury, who was signed by the Angels as a free agent last year, has earned recognition as one of the more productive bats in the starting lineup, providing the team with some much needed consistency. Throughout the first half of the season, he slashed .277/.322/.500 with a .822 OPS, 14 home runs, 78 hits, 17 doubles and two triples. 

This isn’t the first time in his career that the 30-year-old infielder has found himself at the heart of All-Star debates. His 2022 season with the Cincinnati Reds left some wondering if he was going to be the underdog choice for Cincinnati. With the Reds, he showed promise hitting .274/.355/.520 with a .855 OPS and 20 home runs, but he didn’t end up being selected for the 2022 All-Star game.

Drury will not be joining Trout and Ohtani this year, but that might be for the best, given that he has been attempting to work through a shoulder injury after a diving catch against the Chicago White Sox on Thursday left him feeling sore.

“The ball was hit in the hole and I dove and landed on it really weird. I felt a super sharp pain. The rest of the game, it just kind of kept getting worse. I tried to battle through it, but then the next couple of days after, it’s been sore,” said Drury. 

After giving him a few days off to evaluate the injury, the Angels placed Drury on the 10-day IL on Sunday with a left shoulder contusion. Although Drury said that he feels a bit better than he did on Thursday, he’ll be using the All-Star break to fully recover and get back to 100% for the first game after the break. 

“I’m just gonna do my treatments and hopefully it gets better each day,” he added. 

To fill in for Drury, the Angels called up Andrew Velasquez. 

“Losing draft Brandon’s bat is big. I think it’s safe to say he’s been a big cog in there,” said Nevin. “I’m not worried about the offense. We certainly have a lot of guys that are capable of doing a lot more. Again, if you look at the back of their baseball cards, that’s what you’re going to see.” 

Another and perhaps more shocking name missing from Sunday’s All-Star announcement was Carlos Estévez, who has been 21-for-21 in save opportunities in what is shaping up to be the best season of his career. 

“The one that gets me is Este [Estévez]. That was a tough one for me,” said Nevin.

The closer recorded his 21st save after the selections were announced on Sunday, and he said after the game that although he was disappointed by the news, his focus is on winning games above all else. 

“I think I got a good case, but at the end of the day, we’re trying to get to the playoffs. Winning the whole thing is not about me getting to the All-Star game,” said Estévez.  

He added that on top of being proud of himself for the numbers he’s posted so far this season, he’s also proud of his team and is looking forward to their future after the All-Star break. 

“I’m really proud of what I have done. I’m also really proud of what we have done,” said Estévez.   “We’re the Halos. We’re here. We’re battling, and we’re going to get to it.”

Although his name was not announced today, there is still a chance that Estévez could be called up to the All-Star team over the course of the week if another pitcher steps out or is unable to play.  

“I’m certainly happy to have him on my side. But like I said, these things can change throughout the week and hopefully he gets a chance to go. Whether you’re picked today or picked during the week, it’s still a special time to go, so hopefully he gets that opportunity,” added Nevin.