Angels celebrate Ohtani's arrival


Los Angeles (AFP)

The Los Angeles Angels rolled out the red carpet for prized Japanese acquisition Shohei Ohtani on Saturday.

In an introductory press conference worthy of Hollywood -- located not so far north of the Angels' Anaheim home -- the 23-year-old two-way threat was feted by Angels manager Mike Scioscia and general manager Billy Eppler.

"I look forward to playing in front of all you fans and hopefully we can bring a championship back to Anaheim," Ohtani said through an interpreter.

Ohtani, whose 100 mph (161 km/h) fastball and explosive presence at the plate made him a target of myriad Major League Baseball clubs, plumped for the Angels on Friday.

He agreed to a contract worth some $2.3 million. It wasn't the absolute most he could have made, but Ohtani, who narrowed his potential clubs to a short list of seven before choosing the Angels -- said he felt a "strong connection with the Angels and that was pretty much the biggest reason why I decided to sign with the Angels".

An ankle injury hampered him in 2017, but the year before he dazzled for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, batting .322 with 22 homers while going 10-4 with a 1.86 earned run average on the mound.

Ohtani wants to become the first two-way player in Major League Baseball since Babe Ruth pitched in 17 games in 1919.

"I'm honored to be compared to Babe Ruth, but in no way do I think I'm at his level," said Ohtani, who donned his new number 17 Angels jersey for the first time.

Scioscia said the Angels do intend to use Ohtani as a two-way player, but just how that will take shape remains to be seen.

Eppler said the club is "open-minded" to the idea of a six-man pitching rotation, which would give Ohtani more recovery time. But Eppler said he wouldn't be playing in the outfield in the coming season.