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OC Register: Ichiro says Angels’ Shohei Ohtani has the makings of a star

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SEATTLE — Ichiro Suzuki’s sudden shift from player to Seattle Mariners front-office official meant that not only would he miss out on his goal of facing Shohei Ohtani, but he couldn’t even see him play for the first time from the dugout.

That had Suzuki thinking of doing something extreme.

“Maybe I’ll have to pull a Bobby Valentine,” Suzuki quipped through his interpreter, referring to the former New York Mets manager who famously returned to the dugout in a disguise after he’d been ejected.

The widely anticipated matchup because Japan’s biggest baseball star and it’s newest star will not happen on the field this weekend, but the two chatted on the field before the game on Friday.

Their relationship dates back a few years when a mutual acquaintance set them up for dinner. Suzuki said they’ve had dinner about once a year since then.

In that time, Suzuki had gotten to know Ohtani well enough to be impressed with him, as a person and a player.

“He’s real pure, real clean,” Suzuki said. “You can’t help but like him. There is nothing to not like about him. You might get some people because he can do it all and he’s such a good guy, they may not like him because of that, but it’s hard to find something not to like about him.”

Suzuki also said that Ohtani’s first week in the big leagues told him something about where his career was going to lead. Ohtani homered in his first game at Angel Stadium, and then again in each of his next two. He took a perfect game into the seventh in his first pitching start at home.

“The results he put up at the beginning, that’s the sign of a star,” Suzuki said. “Those guys that separate themselves do that kind of stuff. It’s a whole different story if he had that same week in August or later in the year. At the very beginning when everybody is focused on him, to be able to do that then, that’s what stars do.”

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Ohtani has drawn comparisons to Suzuki because of his star power, but Suzuki said they are totally different because Ohtani is making history as a two-way player.

“He’s actually doing something that is going to impact not just Japan or here, but the whole world,” Suzuki said. “People are interested in how he’s going to do today because he’s doing both. To have someone do that, and have that kind of impact and have that much excitement, people wanting to know how he’s doing, he’s going to impact a lot of people.”


Ohtani, who missed his last start because of a mild left ankle sprain, completed a full bullpen session without issue on Friday afternoon. As long as he reports no issues recovering from that, he will be scheduled to start on Sunday.

Manager Mike Scioscia had Ohtani in the lineup as the designated hitter for a fourth straight game on Friday, but the Angels still wanted to wait before having him pitch.

“We’ve taken this very slowly with Shohei,” Scioscia said. “Our medical department said running would come quicker than what he would have to do off a mound. We’ve seen that. But everything felt good this afternoon when he threw.”


Martín Maldonado had to leave the team because of a death in the family. Maldonado, who was placed on the bereavement list, will not return until Tuesday’s game in Colorado, Scioscia said. The Angels recalled Juan Graterol to take Maldonado’s spot on the roster. JC Ramírez, who is out for the year after undergoing Tommy John surgery, was transferred to the 60-day disabled list to create a spot on the 40-man roster for Graterol. …

Zack Cozart missed a second straight game with a back injury. Scioscia said they wanted him to get one more day for a full workout, and he would play on Saturday.


Angels (Tyler Skaggs, 3-2, 3.03) at Mariners (Marco Gonzalez, 3-2, 5.02), Saturday, 6 p.m., Fox Sports West, KLAA (AM 830)

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