Japanese right-hander Shintaro Fujinami has been the cause of much excitement in the Oakland A’s organization since his signing in January, and is continuing to bring that excitement into spring training.
Matt Kawahara of the San Francisco Chronicle reported earlier today that Los Angeles Angels manager Phil Nevin confirmed that two-way superstar Shohei Ohtanti will start against the A’s Tuesday, the same game Fujinami is scheduled to make his Cactus League debut. The Japanese rivals will face off Feb. 28 at Hohokam Stadium.
Fuji, as he prefers to be called, will be renewing his once prolific rivalry with Ohtanti in his MLB debut. Both drafted in 2012 and highly sought after, the two pitchers were instant stars in the Nippon Professional Baseball league early in their careers.
Fuji was a four-time NPB All-Star and already considered one of the best in the league at the beginning of his career. At only 19 years old, he received more All-Star fan votes than any other player (including Ohtani) in his rookie season, according to the Japan Times. He was touted as a generational talent until his career took a more inconsistent turn in 2017.
But Fuji showed drastic improvement in 2022 and the A’s hope to see him at the top of his game again. Martin Gallegos of MLB.com reported last week that he has already impressed A’s Manager Mark Kotsay.
"He definitely comes as advertised in terms of stuff. Today was a big day for him. The nerves were there, which is great. It tells you that he’s where he belongs. He’s been waiting for this moment for a long time."- A's Manager Mark Kotsay
Fuji’s rival Ohtani was a five-time NPB All-Star and 2016 Japan Series Champion before signing with the Angels in 2017.
When asked if he was excited about renewing the rivalry last month, Fuji was quoted by the Associated Press as saying,
"There’s no doubt about it, I’m very excited. We’re the same age. Obviously, he’s one of the best players in the world. For the Japanese fan it will be very exciting for us to play against each other."- Fujinami
The game at Hohokam Stadium in Mesa, Az., is scheduled for a 12:05 p.m. PT first pitch.