Fujinami to make A's spring debut against Angels' Ohtani


Shohei Ohtani's first spring training start for the Los Angeles Angels will be against his fellow countryman: The Athletics' Shintaro Fujinami. 

Speaking to reporters Thursday, Fujinami explained what it means to be facing the former AL MVP and the A's AL West rivals in his Cactus League debut. 

"I think it's a rare matchup and I'm pretty sure Japanese fans are looking forward to it," Fujinami said through interpreter Issei Yamada. "I also look forward to pitching against him too."

A's manager Mark Kotsay told reporters Thursday that Fujinami's debut being on the same day Ohtani pitches is nothing more than happenstance.

"It's Fuji's day, it just so happens to coincide with the day that Ohtani is pitching and I'm sure there will be a lot of excitement about seeing these two," Kotsay said. "I think it's been a long time since they've been on the same field together and outside of being in spring training so it should be exciting."

The last time Ohtani and Fujinami shared the field together was in 2014 when the duo faced MLB stars in the Japan All-Star Series.

Despite the hype around the matchup, Kotsay added that Fujinami will be limited to two innings or around 35 pitches in his debut as the team continues to evaluate where the righty will be most effective. 

Though the 28-year-old Fujinami was in the same draft class as Ohtani, it took the former a little bit longer to break into MLB. However, since coming over to the A's on a one-year, $3.5 million contract on Jan. 11, the right-hander has impressed Kotsay with his three-pitch repertoire.

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With a fastball that can reach triple digits, a deadly splitter and a slippery slider, Fujinami is expected to be a key contributor for the A's, not just against Ohtani and the Angels, but also once the 2023 MLB season begins.

And all starts against Ohtani.