Baseball: Family atmosphere helped lure Ohtani to Angels - GM
(Reuters) - A family-like atmosphere helped the Los Angeles Angels win the frenzied battle to sign Japanese ace Shohei Ohtani, the team's general manager Billy Eppler said on Friday.
Ohtani's decision to join the American League West division team over several bigger franchises that courted him might have surprised some, but he could become the latest piece of the puzzle needed to elevate his new employers into the playoffs.
"I think he felt that there was a family-like atmosphere with the Angels and something that he was wanting to and willing to be a part of for a lot of years to come," Eppler told Los Angeles radio station KLAA 830 AM.
"I think it was his comfort level with us and not only just the plan that we put together for him, but just the overall vibe of the organization."
The pitcher and slugger, who played for the Nippon Ham Fighters in Japan, will join Garrett Richards in the starting rotation and provide danger at the plate on a team that includes MVP sluggers Mike Trout and Albert Pujols.
Ohtani was the most coveted free agent in the off-season after announced he would leave the Hokkaido-based NPB (Nippon Professional Baseball) team and move to Major League Baseball.
The 23-year-old pitches right-handed has a stellar 2.52 earned run average (ERA) in five seasons in the Japan big leagues, and his arsenal includes a 100 miles-per-hour (162 kph) fastball and an excellent slider.
The left-handed batter hit .332 in 2017 and has slugged 48 home runs in 1,035 career at-bats.
He is widely expected to slot into the batting line-up in games when he is not pitching, but Eppler declined to go into specifics.
"The most important participant in the plan, it's going to be Shohei," he said.
"It's going to be how he is accustomed to developing and how he is accustomed to his own workload management. He's going to really be an active participant in this plan."
Ohtani joins a team that went 80-82 in the 2017 season and has reached the playoffs just once in the past eight seasons.
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Adelaide, Australia; Editing by John O'Brien)
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