Los Angeles Dodgers' Shohei Ohtani waits on deck during the...

Los Angeles Dodgers' Shohei Ohtani waits on deck during the first inning of the team's baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Pittsburgh, Tuesday, June 4, 2024. Credit: AP/Gene J. Puskar

Gerrit Cole remembers the sequence well, a lesson learned on pitching to Shohei Ohtani.

“Aggressively,” Cole said Thursday of how best to attack the Dodgers’ DH.

Cole, still in line to make his second rehab start after Tuesday’s successful outing with Double-A Somerset, recalled falling behind Ohtani, then with the Angels, 2-and-0, in the sixth inning of a game Aug. 31, 2022, in Anaheim.

The next pitch, a 98-mph fastball, Ohtani crushed 427 feet to center, his 30th homer of that season — a three-run shot that turned a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 lead and eventual Angels victory by the same score.

“I fell behind throwing junk, threw a pretty good pitch 2-and-0],” Cole said. “And if I had just started with that pitch instead of falling into that count and then allowing him to dictate the at-bat, maybe the result would have been different. I should] have gone right at him from the get-go. That would be my advice.”

Ohtani and the Dodgers start a three-game series at the Stadium Friday night, by far the headliner series of not only the weekend, but the season to this point.

Star power abounds on both rosters, but Ohtani still shines brightest, even with the two-way player relegated to only hitting this season as he recovers from Tommy John surgery (he is expected to resume pitching in 2025).

“The power he generates with relatively no stride,” Giancarlo Stanton said of what has impressed him most over the years watching Ohtani, a two-time American League MVP and three-time All-Star with the Angels and having another standout season at the plate, hitting .322 with 15 homers and an NL-best .989 OPS going into Thursday.

Stanton continued: “Most pitches he’s able to get to, at all speeds. Just a composed hitter overall.”

Stanton said when Ohtani entered the league with the intent of being a two-way player, his first reaction wasn’t skepticism. But he did wonder how Ohtani would handle hitting — in itself enough of a challenge in the big leagues — while still doing what’s necessary to prepare to pitch every fifth or sixth day.

“I thought it would be tough to continue to pitch, with the rest you need in between starts as a pitcher], the octane that it takes to do that,” Stanton said. “That’s the only thing I was wondering about. Because he throws so hard, too. Especially throwing 100 [mph]. If he was a guy that was crafty, throwing 88-92 . . . But he’s 119, 120 this way [exit velocity off the bat] and 100 that way [pitching]. That’s something.”

There is a general respect amongst most major leaguers because all of them, at some baseline level, understand and appreciate the difficulty of getting to the majors, let alone staying there. But certain players engender a sense of awe among their peers and Ohtani certainly is in that category. And has been since debuting in 2018.

“When you can be the best hitter on a team and one of the best pitchers, what’s not to appreciate?” Stanton said with a smile. “If you don’t, you’re just hating at that point. I mean, you don’t want him to beat you, but the talent is undeniable.”

Aaron Boone said Ohtani’s “athleticism” has always stood out the most to him.

“It’s just so much power and speed to watch him run,” Boone said. “To watch that kind of stretch that he creates and torque he’s able to create at the plate and obviously generate massive power is a pretty special combination. And then we haven’t talked about on the mound, where he’s a front- line starting pitcher with amazing stuff. Certainly nothing like I’ve ever seen. But I would say the biggest thing that’s jaw-dropping is the athleticism and physicality.”

Verdugo off but OK

Alex Verdugo, who crashed hard into the wall in left making an acrobatic catch Wednesday night, did not start in left Thursday, but Boone said he had already planned on giving the outfielder a day off. Aaron Judge got the start in left, a position he has never played at the Stadium, though he started three games there in Baltimore earlier this season (and first started working at the position in spring training). Boone said Verdugo was available off the bench Thursday if needed. Trent Grisham, who played in just 21 of the team’s first 64 games, got the start in center and homered in his first at-bat

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