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Baseball Daily Dose

Oh, Oh, Ohtani!

by David Shovein
Updated On: April 5, 2021, 10:20 am ET

Oh, Oh, Ohtani!

Shohei Ohtani is an unbelievably talented athlete and can do so many different things on the baseball field at a remarkably-high level that it’s difficult to comprehend.

Most of those skills were on display on Sunday night against the White Sox. In what will likely become a regular arrangement with Ohtani on the hill this season, we saw the uniqueness of this two-way star in the lineup card as he maintained his second spot in the lineup with the Angels giving up their use of the designated hitter.

In doing so, he became the first pitcher to bat second for any MLB team since Jack Dunleavy did so for the Cardinals in September of 1903. He also became just the first pitcher to hit for himself when a designated hitter was available since 1978.

He came out firing bullets in the first inning, routinely topping 100 mph on the radar gun. He wound up throwing nine pitches over 100 mph during the game -- topping out at 101.1 which is the highest of his career -- and the fastest pitch thrown by any starting pitcher so far during the 2021 season. Pretty impressive.

When he strode to the plate in the first inning, he did more amazing things. He obliterated the first pitch that he saw from Dylan Cease, crushing a 451 foot monster home run to right-center that had an exit velocity of 115.2 mph. To put that into perspective, it was the highest exit velocity on any home run so far during the 2021 season. It was also the second-highest exit velocity of any home run hit by a member of the Angels during the Statcast era. Pretty good.

Through the first four innings, Ohtani looked nearly invincible, allowing just one hit and three walks while striking out six. Then in the fifth inning, Joe Maddon happened. Though Maddon noted during an interview with the ESPN broadcasters that Ohtani was nearing his pitch count while he was in the high 60s, Maddon seemed intent on letting Ohtani earn a victory.

After getting the first two outs, Ohtani had Nick Madrigal on first base and just needed one additional out to get through five innings. Instead, he threw a ball away while attempting to pick off Madrigal, walked Adam Eaton and then lost an eight-pitch battle to Jose Abreu that winded up in a base on balls. 

Maddon continued to stick by his guy though, allowing him the opportunity to get Yoan Moncada to end the inning. He uncorked a wild pitch to begin the at-bat that allowed Madrigal to score the White Sox first run. Then, after Moncada fouled off a tough full-count offering, the prized right-hander got Moncada to strike out swinging -- but he reached first base on a wild passed ball that culminated in both base runners coming around to score, and Jose Abreu barreling into an unsuspecting Ohtani covering home plate. Yikes.

Ohtani was able to walk off the field under his own power, but we probably won’t know until Monday whether or not he sustained any type of injury during the encounter. For what it’s worth, the Angels announced that he wasn’t removed for injury purposes and that he will be re-evaluated on Monday. For the game’s sake, we can only hope that he is alright and will continue to share his vast array of talents with the world.

Through the opening weekend of the season, he hit a pair of home runs, stole a base and struck out seven opposing hitters. That’ll most certainly play.

 

Another Game Washed Out

Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported Sunday afternoon that Monday’s scheduled contest between the Nationals and Braves had been postponed. It’s the fourth straight game that the Nationals have had postponed to begin the season due to COVID-19 issues.

We did get more information on Sunday as to which players on the Nationals were going to miss time, as Jesse Doughtery of the Washington Post said that people with knowledge of the situation suggested that the team was preparing to be without Kyle Schwarber, Josh Harrison, Jon Lester and Alex Avila if scheduled to play early in the week.

The team has not announced the names of players who tested positive, or who have quarantined, officially -- but this seems to be a good indication of what is happening behind the scenes. Hopefully, each of the players involved come through the situation healthy and these precautions prevent further spread in the clubhouse. 

The Nationals have confirmed that four players have tested positive, while seven more are in quarantine after being deemed close contacts. A total of 11 players could be unavailable if the team plays early this week. The report is informed speculation but is likely worth taking seriously in regards to replacing players in weekly fantasy lineups.

Major League Baseball announced late Sunday night that the plan is to have the Nationals play their first game on Tuesday against the Braves. The most recent round of test results revealed no new positives, which is encouraging. They’ll work out as a team on Monday -- for the first time in nearly a week. 

The Monday game that was postponed though, it doesn’t sound like it’ll be made up on Thursday -- where the two teams share a mutual off-day. Instead, MLB declared that an announcement regarding the rescheduling of that game  -- and the Nationals season-opening series against the Mets -- will be made when available.

In leagues with mid-week hitter changes, that means that fantasy managers who have been patiently waiting to deploy Juan Soto, Trea Turner, Josh Bell and the like will only get two games out of them during the first half of the week. Plan accordingly.

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Starting Pitchers with an EDGE

Zach Eflin - 7 IP, 1 ER, 4 H, 8 K, 1 BB

Zach Eflin followed up a brilliant performance from teammate Zack Wheeler with one of his own on Sunday afternoon, thoroughly dominating what is supposed to be a strong Braves offense. Eflin had his sinker working in this one, getting 12 called strikes and three whiffs on 34 sinkers in the game.  He also generated four swings and misses on both his curveball (nine swings) and slider (eight swings) with the only damage coming on a solo home run to Travis d'Arnaud.

Taylor Widener - 6 IP, 0 ER, 3 H, 5 K, 3 BB

Taylor Widener, 26, pitched his way into the Opening Day rotation in Arizona after Zac Gallen went down with a forearm injury. So far, so good. Widener was outstanding in his first MLB start on Sunday, firing six shutout innings in a victory over the hard-hitting Padres. He’s worth a look as a weekly streaming option for as long as he fills in.

 

Hitters with an EDGE

Cedric Mullins - 5-for-5, 3 2B, 3 R, BB

Cedric Mullins tallied the first five-hit game of his career, setting the table in a lopsided victory over Garrett Richards and the Red Sox. He became the first player in O’s history to record five hits, three doubles and a walk in the same ballgame -- and just the sixth player since 1952 to accomplish that feat. He’s locked into the leadoff spot in the lineup and should be owned in all deeper mixed leagues at this stage.

Nick Castellanos - 2-for-4, HR, 3B, 3 RBI

A day after he was ejected for his role in a benches-clearing altercation, Castellanos spoke with his bat on Sunday -- crushing a three-run homer off of Carlos Martinez in a rout over the Cardinals. He’s off to another monster start offensively, hitting .545 (6-for-11) with a pair of homers and five RBI through his first three games.

Jared Walsh - 2-for-4, 2 HR, 4 RBI

Some fantasy managers out there were quick to cut bait with Walsh after he found himself on the Angels bench in each of the first two games of the season. That may have been a mistake. After collecting a pair of hits including a triple and driving in two on Saturday, Walsh crushed a pair of home runs on Sunday night -- including a walk-off three-run blast off of Matt Foster to beat the White Sox. If he was dropped prematurely in your league, go get him right now.

 

Priority Pickup

Jonathan India, 3B, Cincinnati Reds -- 33% rostered in Yahoo fantasy leagues.

The 24-year-old was the fifth overall selection from the 2018 draft class. He hit so well during Spring Training that the Reds made a spot for him in the lineup by shifting Eugenio Suarez over to shortstop and Mike Moustakas over to third base. He has hit the ground running so far, hitting .455 (5-for-11) with a pair of RBI. He’s currently eligible at third base and will soon gain second base as well. He’s got plenty of pop in his bat and has also shown enough speed to be a double-digit contributor in the category over a full season. What are you waiting for?

 

Closing Time

Charlie Montoyo, what are you doing to us! After we found out that Kirby Yates would require Tommy John surgery and miss the entire 2021 season, many believed that Jordan Romano would had a clear path to the ninth-inning gig in Toronto. Does he though? Box score watchers will see a few things -- that 29-year-old Julian Merryweather recorded a save on Opening Day in extremely impressive fashion -- striking out the side against the Yankees. They’ll also see that Merryweather hurled a perfect ninth inning with a pair of strikeouts on Sunday to record his second straight save.

What they won’t see -- or will choose to overlook -- is that Romano worked the ninth inning in a tied game in that same Opening Day victory, you know, the scenario where most opposing managers use their closer. Things were different on Sunday, as Romano was called upon in the eighth inning -- but it was with the top of the Yankees lineup due up. It’s very reasonable to believe that Montoyo simply wanted his best reliever to face the top of the lineup, then allowing Merryweather to clean up the ninth.

Is there a committee here? Maybe, though to me it still looks like Romano should handle the bulk of the chances overall. That’s not what very smart fantasy managers in the community said with their FAAB wallets on Sunday night though. He was the top addition in almost every one of the 43 NFBC Main Event leagues and went for an average of $350 (of $1000 yearly budget) with a max of $576 and a minimum of $181. Yowza.

While that madness was happening, we had chaos in Arizona as well. Stefan Crichton worked the seventh inning with a 3-0 lead, then presumed closer Joakim Soria came on for the eighth. After getting the first two outs, he departed with an injury -- giving way to Kevin Ginkel who had been warming in the bullpen. Was Ginkel warming for the ninth and is he now the likely closer? Some think so. But he only got out of the eighth inning, then Chris Devenski came on to finish it out in the ninth.

 

Monday’s Matchup of the Day

Matt Moore (PHI) vs. Jacob deGrom (NYM)

There’s a lot of fourth and fifth starters on the hill for their respective clubs on Monday, which doesn’t leave a lot to be desired from a pitching perspective. Enter two-time National League Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom finally getting to make his 2021 MLB season debut. We also have intrigue on the other side, as former Rays’ ace Matt Moore returns to the big leagues after pitching for the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks in Japan during the 2020 season.

 

American League Quick Hits: Tim Anderson was pulled from Sunday night’s game in the first inning due to left hamstring tightness. He’s considered day-to-day. … Blue Jays pitching coach Pete Walker noted that Robbie Ray (elbow) is “really close” to a return. … Miguel Cabrera was held out of the Tigers lineup on Sunday after being bothered by cramps late in Saturday’s game. … Sean Murphy (wrist) was held out of the A’s lineup again on Sunday, though he reported improvement. … Byron Buxton was pulled from Sunday’s game due to a non-COVID related illness. … Chad Pinder suffered a left knee sprain after crashing into the outfield wall on Sunday. He’ll undergo an MRI on Monday. … Austin Hays left Sunday’s game with a minor right hamstring strain, he’s considered day-to-day. … J.D. Martinez homered, doubled and drove in two runs in a losing effort against the Orioles. … Isiah Kiner-Falefa went 3-for-4 with a homer and three RBI, leading the Rangers past the Royals. … Jordan Lyles punched out eight over 5 2/3 innings in a surprise victory there. … Michael Pineda fanned five and didn’t allow an earned run over five innings in a win against the Brewers. … Luis Arraez went 3-for-3 and walked twice to pace the Twins attack in that victory… Akil Baddoo homered in his first MLB at-bat as the Tigers fell to the Indians. … Mike King hurled six shutout innings in a dominant relief effort against the Blue Jays. … Aaron Civale allowed three runs on two hits while punching out six over seven innings in a victory over the Tigers.

 

National League Quick Hits: Jesse Winker sat out Sunday’s game -- and was removed from Saturday’s contest as well -- due to not feeling well. … Nick Senzel (back) returned to the Reds lineup on Sunday. … Anibal Sanchez has drawn interest from several MLB clubs according to Jon Heyman of MLB Network and could be close to signing a contract. … Nationals pitching prospect Mason Denaburg underwent successful Tommy John surgery and will miss the remainder of the 2021 season. … The Dodgers placed Tony Gonsolin on the 10-day injured list with shoulder inflammation. … Carlos Carrasco (hamstring) was able to throw two innings in a simulated game on Sunday -- throwing his “entire repertoire”. ... Chris Martin was pulled from Sunday’s game after feeling tingling in his fingers. … Jeff Hoffman struck out five over five innings of one-run baseball in a victory over the Cardinals. … Craig Kimbrel worked a clean ninth inning with a pair of strikeouts to record his first save of the 2021 season. … Julio Urias struck out six over seven innings of one-run baseball in a dominant victory over the Rockies at Coors Field. … Hector Neris closed out the Braves to protect a one-run lead and earn his first save of the season. … Ian Anderson fanned seven over five innings of one-run ball in a no-decision against the Phillies.

David Shovein

Dave Shovein is a baseball writer for NBC Sports Edge. You can follow him on Twitter @DaveShovein.