Find the latest breaking news and information on the top stories, science, business, entertainment, politics, and more.

Shohei Ohtani says he would only pitch in relief for Japan in a possible WBC final

Shohei Ohtani told Japanese reporters Sunday that he would be available only to pitch out of the bullpen in the World Baseball Classic finale on Tuesday if Japan beat Mexico in the semifinals.

“I don’t think there’s a chance for me to start, but of course I would like to prepare to pitch in relief,” Ohtani told reporters. “That will depend on my physical condition. Up until this point, the team has really listened to my selfish requests and there are a lot of things I’m doing that they’ve tolerated.

“This is the end of the end. From here, I would like to have a discussion with my body and make a decision.”

Ohtani gave up two runs on four hits and threw 71 pitches in 4 ⅔ innings in Japan’s quarterfinal victory over Italy in Tokyo on Thursday night. One of the pitches was a 102 mph fastball, the hardest pitch he’s ever thrown as a pro. Factoring in the time difference, Ohtani would pitch Tuesday on 4 1/2 days of rest. He has never pitched on less than five days’ rest.

The Angels’ two-way superstar has been one of the best pitchers and hitters in the tournament. At the plate, he is 7-for-16 (.438) with one home run, three doubles, eight walks and eight RBIs. On the mound, he allowed two runs, both against Italy, in 8 ⅔ innings over two starts.

Japan coach Hideki Kuriyama declined to say if Ohtani would pitch in the final.

“Regarding the pitch, there are strategic issues and there are also considerations about his body,” Kuriyama said after Japan’s training session at LoanDepot Park. “I really can’t say right now.”

With Ohtani limited to relief, Japan could turn to Yu Darvish to start the game on the mound. Darvish also pitched Thursday against Italy but out of the bullpen. He allowed one run and threw 27 pitches in two innings.

Japan needs to defeat Mexico in the semifinals on Monday for Tuesday’s pitching availability to matter. Roki Sasaki, perhaps the best pitcher in the world outside of Major League Baseball, will start for the Japanese against the Angels’ Patrick Sandoval.

Sasaki is 21 years old. He has a 100 mph fastball. Last April, he pitched a perfect game with 19 strikeouts for Chiba Lotte. He followed the start with eight perfect innings and 14 strikeouts before he was taken out of the scoreless game as a precaution.

“He’s young from an age standpoint,” Kuriyama said, “but he’s a pitcher who has come this far by being a skillful pitcher who developed at the same rate as his body.”

Sasaki has said that his dream is to play in the majors. The question is when.

“I think I will play in Japan,” Sasaki said through an interpreter. “And then I think something will clear up when I change.”

Ohtani, 28, was also a phenomenon in Japan. He has proven to throw and hit, success in Japan translates to the majors. Velocity plays anywhere and they both have it. If Japan makes it to the finals, both talents could take the mound on one of baseball’s biggest arenas in the world.

Staff columnist Dylan Hernandez contributed to this report.