Seattle Mariners

Shohei Ohtani to start against Mariners ... and face his lifelong idol?

Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani delivers during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Houston Astros, Tuesday, April 24, 2018, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)
Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani delivers during the sixth inning of a baseball game against the Houston Astros, Tuesday, April 24, 2018, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)

Shohei Ohtani’s next start is likely to be in Seattle this weekend against the Mariners.

Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia told reporters that Ohtani will start sometime during the Friday-Sunday series against the Mariners, though he didn’t specify which day. Ohtani injured his left ankle landing awkwardly on first base on Friday against the New York Yankees, just after belting his fourth home run of the season.

Ohtani was scheduled to start Tuesday against the Baltimore Orioles but Scioscia pushed it to this coming weekend to make sure the 23-year-old is OK.

“We are targeting Shohei to pitch somewhere on the weekend in Seattle just to make sure this is behind him and he gets the proper workout to test it more instead of rushing him and trying to see where he is,” Scioscia said. “It’s the best course of action for Shohei and for us.”

Every one of Ohtani's starts on the mound and just about every appearance in the batter’s box has been must-see. He’s the talk of baseball and he’ll be bringing his show to Safeco Field for the first time. The two-way star has so far done what hasn't happened since 1919, when Babe Ruth consistently hit and pitched for the Boston Red Sox.

And you might remember that Ohtani almost signed with the Mariners this offseason. Seattle was one of seven teams Ohtani spoke with him in December before choosing to play for the Angels in his first year out of Japan.

Then March came around and the Mariners signed 44-year-old franchise icon Ichiro Suzuki.

So if Ohtani does start this weekend, expect it to be a global broadcast event.

There were 185 media members at Ohtani’s introductory press conference. He’s had between 50-65 Japanese reporters covering him daily since then. And it seemed the only day this offseason that Ohtani wasn’t the biggest news in baseball was the day the Mariners signed Ichiro, Ohtani’s lifelong idol.

They each spoke about the prospect of playing each other, despite being separated by 21 years in age.

Though, questions have circulated about whether Ichiro will remain on the Mariners’ roster much longer. And Ichiro’s playing time has been limited with Ben Gamel returning to the starting left fielder's role.

“Obviously the age difference – I’m like a father and he’s like the son,” Ichiro said at his introductory press conference, through interpreter Allen Turner, announcing his return to the Mariners. “But mentally, he’s like the father and I’m like the son. He’s mentally tough.”

Ichiro said Ohtani texted him when he signed with the Angels and they met a few times over the offseason.

He said he was looking forward to the prospect of hitting against Ohtani – and joked he was hoping Mariners manager Scott Servais would let him pitch when Ohtani hits.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Ohtani told USA Today of a potential matchup against Ichiro. “If one day I’m able to be on the same field as him, that will make me very happy.

“Someone at my age, 23, facing Ichiro, that would be a great experience.”

TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677
@TJCotterill
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