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OC Register: Shohei Ohtani moves up to sixth in the Angels’ batting order


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ANAHEIM — The most famous blister in baseball could not prevent Shohei Ohtani from moving up in the Angels’ batting order Thursday. He hit sixth in the finale of a three-game series against the Boston Red Sox at Angel Stadium, the highest he has batted in his brief major-league career.

Ohtani lasted only two innings before a blister on his right middle finger forced him from his last start on the mound, a loss Tuesday to the Red Sox. He is expected to make his next start as scheduled next Tuesday against the Houston Astros.

Ohtani played catch Thursday and his between-starts bullpen session was set for the weekend.

In the meantime, he returned to the lineup as a designated hitter Thursday after getting a regularly-scheduled day of rest Wednesday. He had batted seventh in the order once and eighth six times before moving up to sixth against Boston left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez.

Why sixth?

Why not?

“I just think, where our lineup is right now with the groupings, it’s a good spot for Shohei,” Manager Mike Scioscia said of the 23-year-old rookie from Japan. “Get him back in there and, hopefully, he’ll get a chance to look at some pitches and help us.”

No question, the Angels missed Ohtani’s .367 average during the first two games of the series against the Red Sox, when they were outscored 19-1. Ohtani went into Thursday with three home runs and 11 RBIs in his first eight games as a hitter.

Ohtani’s blister was not expected to trouble him at the plate.

“He’s not very worried about it,” Scioscia said. “We’re looking at it very closely. The medical staff is looking at it closely. When you’re out here for a while (in the major leagues), you get a lot of history with guys with blisters and things like that. Hopefully, it’ll be a non-issue.”

Scioscia wouldn’t reveal his probable pitchers for the Astros series, but if the Angels stick to their seven-day game plan with Ohtani, he’ll start Tuesday in Houston. Ohtani was scheduled to pitch last Sunday’s game against the Royals in Kansas City, but it was rained out.

Ohtani ended up pitching on eight days rest because of the postponement and a scheduled off day Monday.

MILESTONE ALERT

Albert Pujols went into Thursday needing 10 hits for 3,000 for his career, which would make him only the fourth player in baseball with 3,000 hits and 600 home runs. Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and Alex Rodriguez are the only other players in history to reach both milestones.

“It seems like every time he gets a double or a home run or an RBI, you see one of the all-time greats flash on the board that he’s passed,” Scioscia said. “So, it gives perspective in how good Albert’s been and how good he is right now. It’s fun to watch.”

In addition to joining the elite 3,000/600 club, Pujols has a chance later this season to join another remarkable group of players. He went into Thursday with 1,928 RBIs, the ninth-most in baseball history. Only three players, Aaron, Babe Ruth and Rodriguez have reached 2,000 RBIs.

Aaron had 2,297, Ruth had 2,214 and Rodriguez had 2,086.

“He’s meticulous in his preparation and he works very hard at what he has to do on the offensive end and the defensive end, understanding game situations and understanding pitchers,” Scioscia said of Pujols. “He’s as good as anyone I’ve seen at doing that.”

WHO’S NEXT?

The probables for the Angels’ three-game series against the San Francisco Giants:

Friday, Angels left-hander Andrew Heaney (0-0, 5.40) vs. Giants right-hander Jeff Samardzija (2018 debut); Saturday, Angels righty Garrett Richards (2-0, 2.60) vs. Giants lefty Derek Holland (0-2, 4.60); Sunday, Angels TBA vs. Giants righty Cueto (1-0, 0.45).

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