“Looking forward to playing against Yusei-san” Ohtani speaks in exclusive interview with Iwate Nippo
Los Angeles Angels two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani, the 2018 American League Rookie of the Year, has high expectations that he will have a Major League Baseball (MLB) encounter with fellow Japanese pitcher Yusei Kikuchi, who is trying to pursue a career in North America through the posting system after spending nine years in Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) with the Seibu Lions.
“I think Yusei-san can produce results that would be as good as he had in Japan,” Ohtani said of Kikuchi’s major league prospects in an exclusive interview with Iwate Nippo Co. in Tokyo on Dec. 2.
“If I had an opportunity to play against him, I would of course enjoy it,” added the 24-year-old from Iwate Prefecture's Hanamaki Higashi High School, also the alma mater for Kikuchi, 27.
It has been just a year since the Nippon Ham Fighters posted Ohtani to the majors. Looking back, Ohtani said, “A year ago, it was not decided yet which team I would join and I was even considering focusing on (playing) one way (either pitching or hitting) if there was no club willing to let me play both ways.”
“I hadn’t made any prediction whatsoever about how much I would be able to achieve,” he said as he recalled how he started his 2018 season that culminated with him receiving the Rookie of the Year honor for recording four wins on the mound and 22 home runs. “If I would have had undisputed numbers (in my career before), I would have been able to come up with certain goals. But I was still in the stage of seeking to win a position in the lineup as a reliable resource for the team.”