OAKLAND, Calif. — A traffic jam kept Los Angeles Angels right-hander Shohei Ohtani from making it to the ballpark in time for his regular pregame pitching routine, and he was scratched from his scheduled start Thursday night against the Oakland Athletics and shifted to designated hitter.
Because of an accident on the Bay Bridge that snarled traffic for one of the Angels’ several buses, making a 45-minute trip increasingly longer than planned, Ohtani returned to the hotel and wound up on Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) and he fell further behind schedule.
“That kept pushing him back,” manager Joe Maddon said. “For us, Shohei’s most comfortable, he’s pretty much regimented to get everything going about 4 o’clock for his start. It exceeded that by maybe an hour, so we started calling the audible at that point to not pitch him tonight. And if we’re not going to pitch him, we’re going to DH him.”
Catcher Kurt Suzuki, a former Oakland fan favorite, was on the same bus and scratched along with Ohtani. Suzuki will catch Ohtani (1-0, 2.37 ERA) Friday night.
BART said on Twitter it had no problems with any trains at that time Thursday: “First, wow, what an honor to host a baseball superstar like Shohei Ohtani on BART. We did not experience any issues on our end. We confirmed with Operations Control Center there was no delay for any Coliseum-heading train during the Bay Bridge incident.”
Maddon stayed in contact with Ohtani’s interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara, and when “there was an issue with the transfer on the BART” ultimately went with well-rested lefty Patrick Sandoval on the mound in place of Ohtani. The Japanese two-way star was in the lineup batting second against the A’s.
“So that’s all it is — it was just a transportation issue more than anything,” Maddon said. “It’s just unavoidable.”