Los Angeles Angels two-way player Shohei Ohtani speaks to reporters after pitching and hitting in a spring training baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers in Phoenix on March 31. (Kyodo Photo)

RAFU WIRE SERVICES

PHOENIX – Reigning American League MVP Shohei Ohtani on Thursday welcomed a new rule’s approval that will make his work as a two-way batting and pitching star much easier.

“This kind of movement didn’t happen during my time in Japan,”

Ohtani said after Major League Baseball announced the approval of its new “Amended Designated Hitter Rule.”

“I feel grateful that the American side has taken a more flexible approach.”

The rule, called by some the “Ohtani Rule,” will allow teams to list a player as both a pitcher and designated hitter, meaning a pitcher can leave the mound but remain in the batting lineup as DH.

It became an issue last season, when Angels manager Joe Maddon frequently played games without a designated hitter so that Ohtani could both pitch and hit.

The downside came when Ohtani left the mound in those games. His bat would be lost to the Angels unless he took another position, while the Angels’ other pitchers would take a spot in the batting order.

Fans got a preview of the new rule at last year’s All-Star Game, when MLB allowed Ohtani to be both the AL’s starting pitcher and starting DH.

Last year, Ohtani won nine games as a pitcher and struck out 156 batters, while both driving in and scoring at least 100 runs, and hitting 46 home runs. He said he is in better shape this year, and believes the new rule will simplify his work.

“I’ll be able to pitch more aggressively,” Ohtani said. “Last year (in games without the DH) the team would be in a tough spot if I failed to pitch well for five or six innings, and that put me under a lot of pressure.”

“Removing that one thing is huge. I think now I’ll be able to go all out from the very start.”

Darvish Gets 2nd Straight Opening Day Nod for Padres

Yu Darvish will make his second straight opening day start for the San Diego Padres when they open their season on the road against the Arizona Diamondbacks on April 7.

New manager Bob Melvin made the decision to go with the righthander, who was 8-11 last season with a 4.22 ERA. His late-season fade in 2021 mirrored the rest of the Padres, who spent a lot of money during the offseason, started the season with high hopes but ended with a disappointing 79-83 record, far behind the Giants and Dodgers.

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