Los Angeles Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani wrapped up his second big league spring training Friday with an extra spring in his step.
After Tommy John ligament reconstruction surgery on his right elbow in October, Ohtani will be unable to pitch this season for the club or start the season on Opening Day. However, after hearing some words of encouragement from retiring Japanese compatriot Ichiro Suzuki, Ohtani finished camp on a high note.
Early Friday morning, Suzuki told a Tokyo press conference that Ohtani had what it takes to be the world's best.
"He is physically very big, and fast in the way a player his size can't be," Suzuki said. "He's a player who has to become the best in the world."
In a Nov. 11, 2017, press conference, Ohtani said one of his goals before starting his big league career was to be recognized by people as the best in the world, and Suzuki's words struck a chord.
"Hearing that from someone who plays the game, makes me as happy as I could possibly be," Ohtani said at the Angels' spring training base. "I don't want to cast those fine words in a bad light, so I want to do more than just practice, I want to produce."
"As for that (being the best), that's for other people to decide. When I'm done, if people think so, then I'll be content."
The Angels have set May as the time frame for Ohtani's return to the lineup as designated hitter, but Ohtani has his sights set on an earlier target.
"I'm looking toward April," he said. "But while I pursue that, if it doesn't happen until May, that's OK. I think it's important to have a mindset of wanting to return as soon as possible."