Shohei Ohtani says the second half of the season was “stressful” in the midst of the Los Angeles Angels’ weak post-season prospects

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TOKYO – Even Shohei Ohtani, arguably the best player in the big leagues, feels down at times, especially when his team is not winning.

And that’s been the case in each of the four seasons he’s been with the Los Angeles Angels, all of whom have ended up losing records.

His mental state during those fights was among the few small lumps Ohtani revealed in an hour-long interview Monday at the Japan National Press Club.

The question-and-answer session focused heavily on local questions about being at home, about local food and local baseball personalities, and even questions about when the 27-year-old might start a family.

“I think it’s something you can not force to happen; it just happens naturally,” he said, speaking in Japanese through an interpreter. “I think it’s still a long way ahead of me.”

Ohtani is under contract for next season to $ 5.5 million, which will be his highest annual salary to date. He remains under the control of the Angels through 2023 and may become a free agent after that season.

Questions about free agency did not come up in Monday’s interview, even though he was asked about his tax in the United States.

“Los Angeles has high tax rates,” he said, showing he was happy to pay them. “So a little more than half of what I earn has to be paid in taxes. So I pay my taxes. It’s not because I consume a lot. I really do not spend, so it just goes into my savings.”

Almost all questions began with a congratulatory message, often long. He was asked to comment on his memories of the earthquake, tsunami and meltdown of three nuclear reactors in 2011 that killed nearly 20,000 people in northeastern Japan, his home region.

And he was repeatedly asked to be “down” emotionally and get through it.

“How do you overcome it?” he was asked.

“Of course I feel down,” he said, showing his feelings towards the end of the just-concluded season.

“Since I came to the big leagues, the team has not won and we did not have much prospect of going beyond the regular season. So in the last half of the season it was mentally more stressful. And of course I feel down. Sometimes , when I can not beat – or when my pitches are hit. “

But Ohtani said it was better to suffer through a losing season than not play at all, which he experienced for several stretches due to an injury.

“So even feeling down, it was a wonderful year,” he said.

Ohtani is a leading contender for the American League MVP Award, which will be announced later this week.

He was asked where he will be when the award winner is revealed.

“I do not know where I want to be,” he said bluntly, which was typical of his response.