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North America

Japanese star Ohtani makes stellar debut with consecutive home runs

Angels rookie lives up to hype with a pitching win too

Shohei Ohtani sees off his first inning home run against Josh Tomlin.   © Kyodo

ANAHEIM, U.S. -- Los Angeles Angels rookie Shohei Ohtani has been labeled the Japanese Babe Ruth for his rare gifts on the mound and in the batter's box. He has certainly lived up to the billing so far.

Coming off his first win as a major league pitcher Sunday, Ohtani hit his first major league home run, a three-run shot to right-center field, in the bottom of the first inning as the Angels beat the Cleveland Indians 13-2 Tuesday. On Wednesday, Otani did it again by blasting another hit into the stands against the Indians.

The 23-year-old Ohtani smiled as he rounded the diamond on Tuesday, but was greeted back in the dugout by the traditional silent treatment for rookies. His teammates joined him in celebration only after he high fived imaginary Angels and grabbed some of the real ones. He also received a shower of ice water during his post-game interview, another major league tradition.

"I had seen the ice water on TV," he said. "I was really happy."

The elated crowd also gave Ohtani a standing ovation, which he answered with his first home run curtain call. "That was the best," he said.

The Japanese star's career has gotten off to a smooth start with his first hit, home run and win all coming in opening week. The routine he learned switching between batter and pitcher during his time with the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters is imprinted on his mind and body.

"The intervals when I enter the game, including pitching, are my rhythm," he explained. "It's not something that just started."

Although preparing to pitch and hit restricts Ohtani's time, he still manages to watch film of other pitchers to prepare himself at the plate. He also changed his batting stance before the season began, leaving his right leg on the ground when he swings.

"The style is not much different, but it allows me to see the ball longer," said Ohtani, who finished Tuesday's game with two more hits in the third and eighth innings.

Ohtani has quickly managed to get used to differences in the American game through such drills as hitting pitches from a short distance at a rapid tempo.

The Japanese phenom has already garnered much media attention for his Babe Ruth-like abilities, and his red hot start has only fueled the hype.

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