Japan's two-way star Shohei Ohtani will start on the mound against Italy in the World Baseball Classic quarterfinals on Thursday at Tokyo Dome, skipper Hideki Kuriyama announced.
Ohtani on Wednesday was named MVP of Pool B on the WBC's official Twitter account following his starring performances so far in the tournament.
"It will be a pretty hard game," the 28-year-old Ohtani said at a press conference after being asked about facing Pool A runner-up Italy. "I'll give my best to make the most of each run we score."
Ohtani also relished the chance of facing his Los Angeles Angels teammate, David Fletcher, who is also 28 and made his MLB debut the same year, 2018.
"I always see him (Fletcher) hit in the batting cage, and he always sees my pitching from playing defense behind me. So from a personal standpoint, I'm looking forward to it," said Ohtani, who said Fletcher had already reached out to him on the topic of Japanese food.
Ohtani kick-started Samurai Japan's four-game unbeaten run last Thursday, holding China to a single hit while striking out five in four innings to earn the win in their opening game.
At the plate, Ohtani has batted .500 after going 6-for-12 with eight RBIs and blasting a three-run home run against Australia in Japan's last pool game Sunday.
"We're using Shohei Ohtani for the important game," said Kuriyama, who nurtured Ohtani's two-way dream while managing him with the Nippon Ham Fighters in Japan's Pacific League. "I think a really different kind of competition starts here."
Japan is seeking its third WBC title and its first in three editions of the tournament.
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