DENVER — White Sox pitcher Carlos Rodon watched Angels megastar Shohei Ohtani stroll past Monday on a promenade near Coors Field, shook his head and let out a little laugh.
“He’s built like a Greek god,” Rodon said.
That was one of the tamer compliments paid to Ohtani — major-league home-run leader and American League starting pitcher — on All-Star media day.
Babe Ruth comparisons, anyone? There were a lot of those flying around. The Babe knew his way around a pitcher’s mound, too, you know.
“He’s a legendary figure,” Ohtani said through a translator. “It’s a huge honor to be compared to somebody like that. All I can do is try my best.”
Ohtani isn’t the only rock-star player here, but he owned all the buzz heading into the Home Run Derby. Never has a player been selected to an All-Star roster as a position player and a pitcher. But letting it fly in the Derby, too? The size of the undertaking — all season long, really — is what impresses his peers most.
“The demands that are on your body to be a pitcher are intense, to say the least, and I can definitely speak to that,” said National League starter Max Scherzer. “So to be able to shoulder those workloads and also be able to hit, that’s just absolutely incredible.”
It probably worked out for the best for Ohtani that — despite leaving the yard 28 times — he was knocked off by the Nationals’ Juan Soto in an epic first-round bout that ended in a three-pitch “swing-off.” Ohtani has a second half of the season to contend with, after all.
The Mets’ Pete Alonso won the event with his 23rd homer of the final round against the Orioles’ Trey Mancini.
“I’m expecting to be fatigued and exhausted after these two days,” Ohtani said, “but there are a lot of people who want to watch it, and I want to make those guys happy.”
No brains, no problem
The Nationals’ Scherzer will make his fourth All-Star start, joining Don Drysdale, Lefty Gomez and Robin Roberts (five apiece) and Jim Palmer and Randy Johnson (four each) as the only pitchers with at least that many.
“On every level for me, [picking him] was a no-brainer,” NL manager Dave Roberts said.
Contreras flap, continued
All-Stars Kris Bryant and Craig Kimbrel responded to Willson Contreras’ harsh words Saturday about the Cubs’ effort and focus levels heading into the break.
“He wasn’t pointing fingers at anybody,” Kimbrel said. “I think it was just frustration at how we’re playing as a team.”
Bryant’s reaction was a bit more defensive.
“I just know that anytime I wake up in the morning, baseball’s on my mind, the game’s on my mind, the pitcher’s on my mind, my approach is on my mind,” he said. “I never go into a game not ready to play. So I take this very seriously.”
How much does Sox closer Liam Hendriks like to punch the clock and get a game shift in? Enough so that he got in AL manager Kevin Cash’s ear in hopes of making sure he gets an inning.
“I just want the phone to ring and hear my name called,” he said. “Whatever inning, whatever role, whatever, I just want to play.
“It’s that old-school mentality. I don’t want to take days off. If you start taking days off, you get complacent. And if you get complacent, that’ll be the end of you.”