Pittsburgh Pirates left-fielder Bryan Reynolds showed why he is one of the hottest hitters in baseball as he batted in six runs during his side's 13-9 home win against the Chicago White Sox on Friday.

Reynolds came into the game batting .417 with an OPS (on-base plus slugging) of 1.444. He improved both those figures against Chicago as he went three-for-five at the plate with a single, a triple and a home run.

The 28-year-old had four home runs in his first six games this campaign, and he connected on his league-leading fifth with a three-run shot in the fourth inning. His triple came an inning later, when he also came around to score on the hit after a fielding error.

With his performance, Reynolds improved his batting average to .448 (fourth-best in the majors) and his OPS to 1.572 (third-highest).

It was part of an action-packed contest where the two teams combined for 30 hits, including six home runs. 

Exciting 25-year-old White Sox center-fielder Luis Robert Jr blasted two homers – doubling his tally for the season – while going three-for-five with five RBIs.

Pittsburgh right-fielder Connor Joe was the one of two players to record four hits, with three doubles and a single, and he was joined by Chicago lead-off hitter Tim Anderson (four-for-five with two doubles and four runs).

The win improves the Pirates' record to 5-2 as they seek their first playoff berth since 2015.

Trout blasts his first pitch at Angel Stadium this season

Mike Trout could not have made a better start to the Los Angeles Angels' home opener as he crushed the very first pitch he saw for a home run.

The Angels went on to lose to the Toronto Blue Jays 4-3 thanks to a big three-run homer from Bo Bichette in the seventh inning, but Los Angeles' three-time AL MVP still gave the home fans something to cheer for.

After Taylor Ward was issued a lead-off walk in the first inning, Trout stepped up second and sent a first-pitch fastball 441 feet over the wall at left-center. It was Trout's second homer of the season, and he is slashing .348/.531/.696 in a hot start.

Rays remain MLB's only unbeaten team

The Tampa Bay Rays beat the Oakland Athletics 9-5 to extend their perfect start to the season to 7-0.

After back-to-back series sweeps against the Detroit Tigers and Washington Nationals to open their campaign, the Rays made a winning start against Oakland thanks to more power hitting.

Tampa Bay hit five home runs in the contest, highlighted by an Isaac Paredes grand slam in the second inning. Harold Ramirez (second inning), Manuel Margot (third inning), Christian Bethancourt (third inning) and Wander Franco (eighth inning) also sent a ball each over the fence.

Shohei Ohtani homered for the second straight game with a go-ahead fifth-inning two-run blast in the Los Angeles Angels 7-3 in over the Seattle Mariners on Monday.

The Japanese two-way star creamed George Kirby's 1-1 pitch over right-center field for a 431-foot blast with a runner, Mike Trout, on first base to put the Angels up 4-2.

Kirby only surrendered one long ball during the final three months of last season, making Ohtani's shot more spectacular, having earlier grounded out with his first two at-bats.

Ohtani had hammered a solo shot in the fifth inning of the 6-0 win over the Oakland Athletics on Sunday, with the Angels improving to 3-1 with their third straight triumph.

Taylor Ward's eighth-inning two-run shot all but settled Monday's contest after Eugenio Suarez's RBI single in the fifth cut the margin to one run.

Suarez also managed an RBI double in the first inning to put Seattle 1-0 up. The Mariners managed five hits for the game, with Angels starting pitcher Reid Detmers tossing down seven strikeouts.

Ohtani and Ward got the accolades for their blasts, but Brandon Drury went three-of-five with one RBI, driving in Hunter Renfroe with a ninth-inning double.

Tigers win as Alvarez makes Astros history

Matt Vierling scored a tie-breaking two-run homer in the 11th inning as the Detroit Tigers edged the Houston Astros 7-6 for their first win of the new season.

The Tigers had spurned a 4-0 fifth-inning lead, with the Astros launching a four-run fifth-inning rally which was ended by Vierling's backhand catch, before the late drama as the game went to extras.

Yordan Alvarez had led the world champions' fifth-inning rally with a monster three-run blast, which was his 100th career home run.

Alvarez reached 100 homers in only 372 games which is a franchise record, beating Lance Berkman's 452.

Rays and Twins stay perfect

The Tampa Bay Rays maintained their perfect record with a 6-2 win over the Washington Nationals led by outfielder Luke Raley.

Raley blasted two home runs for the game, with a first-inning two-run shot followed by another blast at the top of the eighth over left field.

Drew Rasmussen was outstanding on the mound, with six scoreless innings with two hits and seven strikeouts as well as a brilliant piece of backhand fielding in the fifth.

The Rays are 4-0, with the Minnesota Twins (4-0) the only other remaining team with an unbeaten record after their 11-1 victory over the Miami Marlins.

The New York Yankees' big bats put on a show Sunday as Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton both blasted home runs in a 6-0 shutout of the San Francisco Giants.

Judge, the reigning AL MVP, gave the Yankees the lead in the third inning when he connected on a 392-foot solo shot, but he would get outdone by his heavy-hitting team-mate later in the same frame.

After Anthony Rizzo reached on an infield single, Stanton stepped up and hit the third-longest homer in Yankee Stadium history, travelling 485 feet to center field. Judge and Stanton now both have two home runs each through their first three games.

Yankees catcher Kyle Higashioka got in on the fun with his own solo homer in the fourth inning, but despite all the power on display, the performance of the game came from 25-year-old rookie starting pitcher Jhony Brito.

In his first major league start, Brito pitched five scoreless innings, allowing just two hits and one walk to go with six strikeouts in 76 pitches.

The result means the Yankees have taken their opening series 2-1, with the reigning NL Champion Philadelphia Phillies rolling into town next for another three-game set.

Trout and Ohtani hammer A's

Three-time AL MVP Mike Trout got his season up-and-running as he crushed a deep home run as one of his three hits in a 6-0 Los Angeles Angels' win.

On the road against the Oakland Athletics, Trout had gone one-for-seven with two walks in the first two games of the season, but his first four at-bats this time resulted in a double, a single, a home run and a walk.

His 434-foot, two-run homer in the fifth inning would have been the biggest hit in most games, but he was bettered later in the same inning by superstar team-mate Shohei Ohtani.

Ohtani's only hit of the day sailed 443 feet over the wall at right-center, and 23-year-old rookie Logan O'Hoppe made it a game he will never forget with his first career home run.

Springs throws six no-hit innings

Coming off a career-best season, Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Jeffrey Springs made a near faultless start in Sunday's 5-1 home win against the Detroit Tigers.

Springs went six full innings without allowing a hit, giving up just one walk in the second inning while striking out 12 batters in a dominant display. 

The team no-hitter was broken up the very first batter after Springs' exit, but Tampa's five runs – highlighted by Randy Arozarena's 436-foot solo home run – were more than enough.

Los Angeles Angels reliever Aaron Loup was embarrassed to inflict an unwanted MLB first on team-mate Shohei Ohtani despite his latest superstar showing.

The Angels lost 2-1 to the Oakland Athletics on Opening Day, but they had led 1-0 through Ohtani's six innings, in which he sent down 10 strikeouts.

Loup then came in for what he described as "probably the most embarrassing outing of my career".

It was the first time since at least 1901 a pitcher's team had lost on Opening Day after he had 10 Ks and no runs allowed. They had previously been 25-0 in such circumstances.

Ohtani's performance was all the more remarkable as he called his own pitches, using the recently approved PitchCom, in response to the introduction of the pitch clock.

An early mix-up required catcher Logan O'Hoppe to ask Ohtani to re-enter the code in the device, which was soon ditched for the remainder of the first inning.

All went smoothly thereafter, though, and O'Hoppe said: "He probably could have been more unhittable if we had PitchCom in the first inning."

So quickly did the two-way sensation master the new process, Ohtani was regularly keying in his pitch before the pitch clock had even begun.

He explained the nature of a visit from home-plate umpire Adrian Johnson at the end of the fifth inning, saying: "He told me I was pitching a little early – before the batter was in the box."

The A's scarcely threatened to disrupt Ohtani's shutout, and he had the answer when they did.

With only one out and runners on second and third in the fourth inning, he struck out Jesus Aguilar and Ramon Laureano in quick succession.

Mike Trout reflected: "That sequence right there... he went from dominant to unhittable."

Ultimately, however, it was not enough, with Ohtani himself restricted to only one hit as a batter, a single in the same fourth inning.

"We got a lot of guys on base, got a few guys in scoring position, but we just lacked that one big hit," Ohtani said. "Obviously we want to score more."

Manager Phil Nevin added: "We're going to score more runs, I'm not worried about that. It's just opening night. Baseball gets weird sometimes."

After his record-breaking 2022 season, there was no one more fitting to hit the first home run of the 2023 campaign than Aaron Judge as the New York Yankees won 5-0 over the San Francisco Giants on Thursday.

Judge, who blasted an American League single-season record 62 home runs last season, lit up Opening Day with the first home-run shot of 2023 in the first inning at Yankee Stadium.

The Yankees outfielder needed only two pitches before launching Logan Webb's sinker over the center-field wall. Judge's blast had an exit velocity of 109.3 mph and traveled 422 feet according to Statcast projections.

Gerrit Cole did the rest on the mound, recording an Opening Day franchise record 11 strikeouts across six scoreless innings.

Gleyber Torres creamed a two-run blast in the fourth inning to open up a 3-0 lead, while Torres scored again from a D.J. LeMahieu single in the seventh.

Judge chimed in with a broken-bat RBI single in the same inning, with Jose Trevino scoring, securing a 5-0 win and initiating "M-V-P!" chants from the home crowd.

Top prospect Anthony Volpe also got a rousing reception from the Yankees faithful, finishing 0-2 with a walk in his maiden start at shortstop.

Jays edge Cards in 19-run, 34-hit epic

The Toronto Blue Jays edged the St Louis Cardinals 10-9 in a wild 19-run 34-hit Opening Day classic where Vladimir Guerrero Jr played a key role.

Guerrero brought home the decisive run with a ninth-inning sacrifice fly for new addition Kevin Kiermaier to score the go-ahead run. Guerrero finished with three RBIs from two hits.

Alejandro Kirk had helped the Jays to a 3-0 first-inning lead with a two-run single on a line drive, after Daulton Varsho drove in George Springer on a double.

The chaotic contest saw the Jays become the first MLB team to allow a go-ahead run in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings on the road and still win since the Boston Red Sox in 1938.

Ohtani sends down 10 Ks in Angels defeat

Shohei Ohtani took the unusual step of calling his own pitches, sending down 10 strikeouts, but it was not enough for the Los Angeles Angels in a 2-1 loss to the Oakland Athletics.

Ohtani threw six shutout innings, allowing only two hits, but the A's capitalized after he exited, turning a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 victory, scoring two at the bottom of the eighth.

Tony Kemp doubled on a fly ball past Mike Trout in center field with Esteury Ruiz scoring, before Aledmys Diaz's line drive drove in Kemp.

Angels outfielder Hunter Renfroe produced a moment of magic in the fifth inning with a no-look catch, leaving Ohtani stunned.

Coming off arguably the most entertaining World Baseball Classic ever, the 2023 Major League Baseball season promises to deliver yet again as 30 teams battle it out for two World Series spots.

Reigning champions the Houston Astros wrote themselves into the record books last season by reaching the American League Championship Series for the sixth consecutive year, and while they may have lost their Cy Young Award winner, they have re-tooled and will expect strong development from their cast of young stars.

While they are the deserved favourites, the San Diego Padres and New York Mets have pushed all their chips into the middle and are in World Series-or-bust mode, joining the New York Yankees as the league's three most expensive payrolls.

The World Baseball Classic showed its not only the United States where the talent lies, but Japanese fans in particular will be keeping an extra close eye on proceedings as superstar Shohei Ohtani looks to take home his second AL MVP and Masataka Yoshida and Kodai Senga enter the rookie ranks.

With plenty of interesting storylines to choose from, it only makes sense to start with the kings of the castle.

Astros remain the team to beat

On their way to the 2022 World Series title, the Astros advanced to the final four teams for the sixth consecutive season. 

It is the second-longest streak in MLB history, only bettered by the Atlanta Braves in the 1990s as they did it on eight consecutive tries, although there was a one-year gap in the middle due to the 1994 playoffs being cancelled in the strike season.

This sustained period of excellence has been led by future Hall-of-Famer Jose Altuve and a strong supporting case of Alex Bregman and Kyle Tucker, as well as former star Carlos Correa and the future of the franchise Yordan Alvarez, while their starting pitching has been almost unmatched.

In 2022, Houston had two pitchers finish top-five in AL Cy Young Award voting with winner Justin Verlander and fifth-placed Framber Valdez, and while the former has left, they also unearthed high-upside rotation pieces Cristian Javier and Luis Garcia.

Add in their dominant bullpen, led by Ryne Stanek and Ryan Pressly, as well as the best rookie in the last season's playoffs – Jeremy Pena – and the free agent signing of former MVP Jose Abreu, and this Astros team does not figure to be going anywhere.

Will the Padres or Mets be able to spend their way to a title?

The Mets boast the most expensive team in the sport this season, with a combined payroll of $357million – $75m more than their cross-town rivals, the second-placed Yankees ($272m).

They have taken some significant risk by committing a combined $86.6m to their two ageing aces as 38-year-old Max Scherzer and 40-year-old Verlander take home $43.3m each, but with six Cy Young Awards between them, it is likely to be money well-spent.

The Mets will be hurt by losing star closer Edwin Diaz for the season after tearing up his knee celebrating a WBC win with Puerto Rico, but they have 28-year-old slugger Pete Alonso on a bargain deal as he enters his final years of arbitration before an inevitable monstrous extension.

Meanwhile, the Padres come in at the third-most expensive team at $249m, and while they do not have the Hall of Fame-level talent leading their pitching rotation like the Mets, they may have the best batting line-up in the game.

Their four All-Stars leading the way – Xander Bogaerts, Fernando Tatis, Juan Soto and Manny Machado – could all have MVP-calibre seasons, and they give the Padres a real chance at being this season's highest-scoring team.

Can anybody deny Ohtani his second MVP?

If he was not already the biggest star in the sport, Ohtani's brilliant performance in guiding Japan to their third World Baseball Classic cemented his status as the top dog.

An All-Star designated hitter with 80 home runs across the past two seasons – a total that has only been exceeded by Aaron Judge (101) and tied by Vladimir Guerrero Jr (80) – Ohtani also emerged as one of the sport's most dominant pitchers in 2022.

His 11.9 strikeouts per nine innings was just 0.1 behind league-leader Carlos Rodon (12.0), while also posting the sixth-best ERA (2.33) among qualifying starters.

It is the kind of two-way dominance not seen at this level since Babe Ruth, and it took a historic season from Aaron Judge to deny Ohtani his second consecutive MVP.

Judge finished with 16 more home runs than any other player, breaking the American League and New York Yankees single-season record while also posting a gaudy batting average of .311 as he flirted with a Triple Crown.

If he can replicate that kind of season, he will prove he really is one of the greatest hitters of his generation and will likely earn the recognition again, but the overwhelming likelihood is some regression from the Bronx bomber.

Even with Judge's fine campaign, voters still viewed it as a neck-and-neck race with Ohtani as his combined value as essentially two All-Stars in one roster spot makes his argument almost infallible – especially if his Los Angeles Angels finally make the playoffs.

As long as he can remain healthy, expect Ohtani to lift his second AL MVP as he heads into perhaps the most anticipated free agency in American sports since LeBron James' move to Miami.

Will new Red Sox signing and WBC star Yoshida be the top rookie?

A bevy of super-talented American prospects including Baltimore Orioles infielder Gunnar Henderson and Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Corbin Carroll are expected to emerge as top talents this season – but no rookie should have higher expectations than Boston Red Sox signing Yoshida.

Yoshida, 29, is a four-time All-Star in Japan's top professional league, and boasts a career batting average of .327 with 133 home runs in his six seasons with the Orix Buffaloes.

The Red Sox ended up the highest bidder for his services, forking out a five-year contract worth $90million, on top of a $15.4m posting fee to the Buffaloes, and they were given a sneak peek at the World Baseball Classic.

En route to Japan's third title – while no other country has more than one – Yoshida earned a spot on the All-Classic team by breaking the RBI record with 13 in seven games, while slashing .409/.531/.727 and hitting a pair of home runs.

He is not the only Japanese veteran trying to make his mark as a rookie this season, as 30-year-old New York Mets starting pitcher Senga will have every opportunity to become a star after signing a five-year, $75m deal with one of the most-watched teams in baseball.

The Los Angeles Angels have announced top prospect Logan O'Hoppe will be their starting catcher for Thursday's Opening Day game against the Oakland Athletics.

O'Hoppe will catch from Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani who has also been confirmed to start Thursday's game at O.co Coliseum.

The 23-year-old will step in with Max Stassi placed on the Angels injured list on Wednesday with hip soreness.

"He worked his tail off all winter to be in this position and he's earned it," Angels manager Pat Nevin said of O'Hoppe.

"A guy like Ohtani is saying this guy can really catch and I don't mind throwing to him."

O'Hoppe debuted for the Angels late last season, batting .286 with two RBIs in five games. He batted .281 with a .799 OPS in 12 games in spring training.

The New York-born catcher was traded by the Philadelphia Phillies, where he was behind J.T. Realmuto, to the Angels in August last year in exchange for Brandon Marsh.

Shohei Ohtani was described as a "unicorn to the sport" by United States manager Mark DeRosa after he led Japan to victory in the World Baseball Classic final.

Ohtani struck out Los Angeles Angels team-mate Mike Trout to seal a 3-2 victory in a thrilling conclusion in Miami on Tuesday.

Named the tournament's MVP, Ohtani ticked off a list of achievements during the game that had only ever previously been matched in an MLB or WBC game by the legendary Babe Ruth in October 1921.

The 28-year-old started in the batting lineup, drew a walk, got a hit, came on to pitch in relief, struck out a batter and was the finishing pitcher.

"What he's doing in the game is what probably 90 per cent of the guys in that clubhouse did in Little League or in youth tournaments, and he's able to pull it off on the biggest stages," DeRosa said. 

"He is a unicorn to the sport. I think other guys will try it, but I don't think they're going to do it to his level.

"What blows me away on this stage is the fact that no moment is too big for him. He did not seem rattled by walking Jeff McNeil on a close pitch, not rattled that three MVPs were coming up to bat."

Ohtani himself was happy to accomplish one of his career goals by winning the tournament, and believed the victory over the USA was also proof that Japan can get the better of anyone.

"In my baseball life, [winning the World Baseball Classic was] one of the things that I wanted to achieve," Ohtani said. "Today I was able to achieve one of the goals.

"Of course, I happened to get the MVP, but this really proves that Japanese baseball can beat any team in the world."

Japan superstar Shohei Ohtani struck out Los Angeles Angels team-mate Mike Trout to end a 3-2 victory over the United States in a thrilling conclusion to the World Baseball Classic (WBC) on Tuesday.

The two pre-tournament favourites ended up meeting in the final, and almost like the script of a sports movie, fans were gifted the most anticipated matchup in baseball for the last out of the game.

It was the United States striking first, with Trea Turner continuing his remarkable tournament with a solo home run in the second inning. With it, he broke the US record for most home runs in a single WBC (five) and the most RBIs (11).

But their lead was short-lived, as 23-year-old Japan slugger Munetaka Murakami crushed a 432-foot bomb to tie the game with the first pitch in the bottom of the second frame.

With the final being played in Miami, the visiting team jumped ahead 2-1 later in the second through a Lars Nootbar RBI ground-out with bases loaded.

That score would hold until a solo home run from Kazuma Okamoto in the fourth inning to put Japan up 3-1, and while the United States finished with nearly double the amount of hits (nine against five), they failed to string them together and score.

The game was injected with life in the eighth inning as Kyle Schwarber put together a 10-pitch at-bat against Texas Rangers star Yu Darvish – including five foul balls in a row – before blasting a 436-foot homer to cut the lead to one.

All-Star Devin Williams pitched a clean eighth inning for the United States to reach the ninth with the scores still at 3-2, when Ohtani was sent out to close the show.

After a Jeff McNeil walk to open the inning, Ohtani got Mookie Betts to ground into a double-play, putting Japan one out away from securing their third WBC title.

The only thing standing in his way was Trout, and with the entire stadium on their feet – with a full count – Ohtani struck out the three-time AL MVP to collect the save.

Japan are the only team with more than one WBC crown, denying the United States a chance to tie them with two each, while the Dominican Republic also has one.

MLB Opening Day is still over a week away but several of baseball's biggest names will be in action on Tuesday – and Shohei Ohtani cannot wait.

The final of the World Baseball Classic will pit Ohtani's Japan against the might of defending champions the United States.

With Ohtani planning to hit and pitch in relief as he ramps up his preparations for the new season, all eyes will be on his potential matchup with Los Angeles Angels team-mate Mike Trout, the Team USA captain.

"It's not only Mike Trout, but one through nine in that order is filled with superstars, household names," Ohtani said.

"I'm just excited to face that lineup. It's a great thing for Japanese baseball."

Ohtani was speaking after Japan's dramatic 6-5 comeback win over Mexico that booked their spot in the final.

In an apparent nod to the Angels' eight-year absence from the MLB playoffs – spanning his entire career – Ohtani said: "It's been a while since I've played in a win-or-lose game, in a playoff atmosphere."

Munetaka Murakami, a Japanese Triple Crown winner last year, clinched Japan's victory with a walk-off double at the bottom of the ninth.

"It was the best, epic," said Boston Red Sox outfielder Masataka Yoshida, while Mexico manager Benji Gil graciously added: "Japan advances, but the world of baseball won tonight."

That is still not enough for Ohtani, though, as the two-way superstar said: "Obviously, it's a big accomplishment to get to the championship series.

"But there's a big difference from being in first and second, so I'm going to do all I can to get that first place."

The agent of Los Angeles Angels superstar Shohei Ohtani believes the baseball unicorn has "earned the right" to explore free agency.

Ohtani, 28, is the only player in Major League Baseball who excels as both a pitcher and a hitter, earning an All-Star selection in both categories last season.

He struck out 219 batters in 2022 – the sixth-most in the majors – while also tying for 11th on the home run leaderboard with 34 dingers. His 80 combined home runs over the past two seasons trails only Aaron Judge (101).

The six-foot-four Japanese sensation led all players in Wins Above Replacement (WAR) in 2021, and it took Judge breaking the American League home run record in 2022 to unseat him as number one.

Ohtani will play for a $30million salary this season ahead of what will almost certainly be a record-breaking contract, but agent Nez Balelo gave no indication that his client is leaning towards staying in Anaheim.

When asked if he would be open to negotiating a long-term extension during spring training, Balelo said he is open to anything, but will not make a commitment.

"I've always been open to it," he said. "But there's several layers to this one, and Shohei's earned the right to play through the year, explore free agency, and we'll see where it shakes out."

Asked if that meant a spring training deal was actually unlikely, Balelo was again not willing to go one way or the other.

"I've said it before, I'll say it again – we're taking it one day at a time," he said. "I'm not putting the cart before the horse on this one."

Ohtani has been weighed down by poor Angels teams and has never made the playoffs – something he may be growing tired of.

"He's so competitive, like all great players are, so of course they want to experience the postseason, of course they'd love to be in the World Series," Balelo said. "But is that the deciding factor? I don't know. We'll just have to wait and see.

"Shohei's been here five years, now this is his final year, and now we have free agency, so of course there's gonna be a lot of questions.

"What does he wanna do? Where's he gonna go? All of it. And I've said this so many times and Shohei has said it as well – we really take it day by day, one day at a time.

"I've always wanted him to enjoy this ride that he's on. I've wanted him to embrace it. That's what he's done. We're gonna continue that."

Whoever eventually secures Ohtani long-term will almost certainly have to eclipse the nine-year, $360m benchmark set by Aaron Judge and the New York Yankees this offseason.

Eight players who have won a Major League Baseball MVP award during their careers will take part in this year's World Baseball Classic as rosters for the 20 participating teams were revealed.

Five of those players will be competing for the defending champion United States squad, that will be captained by Los Angeles Angels superstar Mike Trout. The three-time American League MVP will be part of a potentially fearsome lineup that also includes 2022 National League MVP Paul Goldschmidt and Los Angeles Dodgers standouts Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman.

Another Dodger and former NL MVP, Clayton Kershaw, will help anchor a pitching staff as the U.S. attempts to duplicate its victory in the most recent WBC held in 2017.

Venezuela is the only other nation with multiple former MLB MVPs and will be captained by longtime Detroit Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera, who is expected to retire at the end of the 2023 season. The Venezuelan roster also includes 2017 AL MVP Jose Altuve of the Houston Astros as well as Atlanta Braves sensation Ronald Acuna Jr.

Japan, the only nation with more than one WBC title, will be headlined by Trout’s Angels teammate and two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani. The 2021 AL MVP is joined by the reigning Nippon Baseball MVP Munetaki Murakami for the 2006 and 2009 champions.

Team USA and Japan would have to each advance to at least the semifinals for an unprecedented matchup between Ohtani and Trout to take place.

"I don’t even know what to tell 'em," Trout told MLB Network during the roster reveal show when asked if he would offer Team USA a scouting report on Ohtani. "I'm watching him from center field pitching – he's got the best stuff in the league, I think. I don't think I've talked to anybody in the league who wants to face that dude.

"At the plate, he’s got very little weaknesses. Nothing even comes to the top of my head."

Team USA will play their first-round games in Phoenix as part of the Group C bracket that also includes Mexico, Colombia, Canada and first-time participant Great Britain. Japan will be the host nation for Group B play, which will take place in Tokyo with South Korea, Australia, China and the Czech Republic also in the pool.

Venezuela will head to Miami to be part of a loaded Group D field that contains tournament betting favourite Dominican Republic as well as 2013 and 2017 runner-up Puerto Rico.

The Dominican team, which captured the title in 2013, features 2022 NL Cy Young Award winner Sandy Alcantara atop its pitching staff and reigning AL Rookie of the Year Julio Rodriguez among a star-studded crop of position players that also includes sluggers Juan Soto, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Manny Machado, Rafael Devers and Wander Franco.

First-round play is scheduled to run from March 8-15 with the top two teams from the four groups advancing to the quarterfinals, which will be held in Tokyo from March 15-16 and Miami from March 17-18.

Miami’s LoanDepot Park will also host the semifinals from March 19-20 as well as the championship game on March 21.

Aaron Judge has capped his historic season after being crowned the AL Most Valuable Player (MVP) ahead of Los Angeles Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani on Thursday.

St Louis Cardinals slugger Paul Goldschmidt was also voted the NL MVP, beating out Manny Machado of the San Diego Padres and teammate Nolan Arenado for the award.

Judge's MVP, the first in his career, came after he broke the single-season Yankees and AL home-run record, reaching 62 to surpass Roger Maris Sr's 61 – set 61 years ago in 1961. He became the fourth major league player to hit 62 or more homers in a single season.

The Yankees outfielder led the AL in home runs (62), RBIs (131), slugging percentage (.686), on-base percentage (.425), OPS (1.111) and total bases (391), while he chased an AL Triple Crown down the stretch, but ultimately fell short as Minnesota Twins' utility Luis Arraez (.316) won the batting title.

Judge received 28 first-place votes for 410 points, ahead of Ohtani (280) and Houston Astros' Yordan Alvarez (232).

The 30-year-old already had two top-five MVP finishes on his resume, in 2017 and 2021, winning Silver Slugger awards in both years.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone said: "I’m grateful that I got to witness it first-hand and share in his magical year, especially given how much respect I have for him as a player and as a person."

Goldschmidt looked like the NL MVP since the All-Star break, batting .317 while leading the NL in OPS (.982) and slugging percentage (.578).

The Cardinals first baseman's 35 home runs finished one off his career-high, set in 2013 and equalled in 2017, giving him his seventh season with at least 30 dingers.

Goldschmidt won the MVP with 380 voting points, ahead of Machado (291) and Arenado (232). It is the sixth time in 35-year-old Goldschmidt's career that he has finished in the top-six for the award.

"I think definitely as you age, you have to adapt, and that's some of what I've tried to do. I've tried to get ahead of it," Goldschmidt told MLB Network. "I think it was my best season."

The Los Angeles Angels have no plans to trade two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani this offseason, general manager Perry Minasian told reporters Monday.  

Ohtani is entering his final season of team control before he becomes a free agent next offseason. The Angels agreed to pay Ohtani $30million in 2023 to avoid arbitration, but speculation has persisted that Los Angeles is at a crossroads with the Japanese-born star.  

"Because he's obviously such a good player, we're not moving him. Ohtani is not getting moved," Minasian said at the GM meetings in Las Vegas. "He'll be here to start the season.  

"I know there's been rumors and all types of things, but he will be part of the club. We love the player and I think the goal is for him to be here for a long time."

Minasian said that the Angels’ potential impending ownership change would not affect the club’s willingness to offer Ohtani a contract that is sure to be enormous.  

"At the end of the day it's ownership's call," Minasian said about a potential deal with Ohtani. "But I make the recommendations and I think everybody's on the same page. Easy player not to move."

Ohtani, 28, was named one of the three finalists for the American League MVP Monday after winning the award in 2021. He hit .273 this season with 34 home runs and 95 RBI. As a pitcher, he finished with a 15-9 record and 2.33 ERA while making a career-high 28 starts.  

The Angels have missed the playoffs every season since Ohtani joined the team in 2018 and have made just one postseason appearance since his co-star, Mike Trout, made his debut in 2011.  

The Los Angeles Angels may have missed the 2022 playoffs, but interim manager Phil Nevin has been hired by the franchise permanently.

The Angels announced a one-year contract for Nevin prior to Wednesday's season-ending 3-2 loss to the Oakland Athletics.

Nevin had started the season as third-base coach and took over on an interim basis in June after Joe Maddon was fired amid a franchise-record 14-game losing streak.

The 51-year-old was officially hired after meeting with general manager Perry Minasian on Tuesday.

"It certainly means a lot," Nevin said. "It wasn't exactly how I envisioned these things happening, but I know I've been given a heck of an opportunity with some special people that I've created relationships with now for the last six, seven months."

Nevin enjoyed a 46-60 record after taking over from Maddon, who had led the Angels to a 27-29 start to the 2022 season.

"I had a lot of great experiences the last four months, or really the entire season," Nevin said. "A lot of times when you're given this opportunity for the first time, you’re walking into a place where they're rebuilding or expectations are low for a while.

"But we have some of the best players in the world. And I know we’re going to have a good support group around them. I know the common narrative is 'if we're healthy we can do this'. We have a lot of talented guys in that room and on our staff."

Nevin earned praise from Angels star pair Mike Trout, who hit his 40th home run of the 2022 season against the A's, and Shohei Ohtani.

"It's been great. The guys in this clubhouse trust and rely on him," Trout said. "Nev knows the game. He's worked hard to get here, and it means a lot to him."

Ohtani added via a translator: "I felt like he was kind of thrown into the situation. I felt like he did as well as he could, got us as many wins as possible. I felt like players were with him and gave him all their best."

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