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Shohei Ohtani struggles with reduced velocity in loss to Cleveland

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Baseball's version of the greatest "Sho" on earth was back on Wednesday with Shohei Ohtani on the mound and in the lineup for the Los Angeles Angels in their home game against Cleveland.

The excitement turned quickly to concern as Ohtani's velocity on his pitches was down anywhere from 3 to 7 mph from where it's usually been this season.

He allowed a run in the first inning on Franmil Reyes' RBI double, yet still managed to get out of trouble afterwards by leaning more on his offspeed pitches.

But that didn't silence the warning bells on social media over Ohtani's velocity dip.

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Ohtani battled his way through 72 pitches, finally leaving the mound with two outs in the fifth inning and the game tied at 2. But he didn't leave the game.

For the third time this season, Angels manager Joe Maddon moved Ohtani to right field to keep the major league home run leader's bat in the lineup.

He got one more turn at the plate, leading off the bottom of the sixth with a bunt single. However, he was thrown out trying to steal second and was taken out as part of a double-switch in the top of the seventh.

As for the heath concerns, apparently everything seemed to be fine.

The Angels didn't have anyone warming up in the bullpen over the first four innings. And manager Joe Maddon would never have left Ohtani in the game to play the outfield if there was any hint of an injury.

“I’m not worried about any injuries,” Ohtani said through his translator. “I was able to stay in there and play defense. I think my body was just feeling really heavy and sluggish. ... I wasn’t feeling the fastball at all today, so I figured I could throw the cutter and get some quick outs, make them put the ball in play.”

He didn't figure in the decision in the Angels' 3-2 loss. Ohtani ended up striking out five and allowing two earned runs in 4 2/3 innings as his season ERA rose to 2.37. As a hitter, he's batting .272 with 14 home runs, 33 RBI and six stolen bases.

“He just didn’t have it going on early,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “I thought he got (his velocity) up after we tied it up, but he just wasn’t feeling his fastball tonight. He pitched mostly with sliders and cutters. I don’t know if it was the residue of (pitching and/or hitting every day).”

Dual-threat rookie

Randy Arozarena of the Tampa Bay Rays might not be the same kind of two-way player Ohtani is, but he excelled on offense and defense in a 9-7 victory over the Baltimore Orioles.

Arozarena, one of last year's playoff heroes, is technically still a rookie because he didn't have enough plate appearances during the 2020 regular season to lose his rookie status.

He certainly looked like a seasoned veteran Wednesday night, hitting a pair of home runs AND taking one away from the Orioles' Pat Valaika.

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While it's far too early to start thinking about end-of-season awards (Ohtani for MVP!!), here's a quick look at one person's list of the top rookies in each league so far.

AMERICAN LEAGUE

1. DH Yermin Mercedes, White Sox

2. OF Adolis Garcia, Rangers

3. OF Randy Arozarena, Rays

4. 2B Nick Madrigal, White Sox

5. RP James Karinchak, Cleveland

NATIONAL LEAGUE

1. SP Trevor Rogers, Marlins

2. SS Jazz Chisholm, Marlins

3. OF Dylan Carlson, Cardinals

4. SP Ian Anderson, Braves

5. SP Ryan Weathers, Padres

Follow Steve Gardner on Twitter @SteveAGardner.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: MLB notes: Shohei Ohtani's velocity down; early rookie of year ranks