In addition to being USA vs Japan, World Baseball Classic final is also Trout vs Ohtani

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During the MLB season, Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani are teammates. The superstars are working together to try to bring the Los Angeles Angels back to relevance after eight consecutive years of missing the postseason and more than two decades removed from the franchise’s lone World Series title.

But on Tuesday, they will be opponents at Miami’s loanDepot park as each tries to lead his country to a World Baseball Classic title.

In the home dugout: Ohtani and Team Japan.

In the visitor dugout: Trout and Team USA.

If everything went their way, Trout and Ohtani will ultimately lead the Angels to their second-ever World Series title and first since 2002.

Until then, the two will soak in the moment of being temporary adversaries as they compete in front of a sold-out crowd for a championship.

“[It’s] not only Mike Trout, but one through nine in that order is filled with superstars and household names,” Ohtani said Monday after Japan’s 6-5, walk-off win over Mexico in the semifinals. “I’m just excited to face that lineup, and it’s a great thing for Japanese baseball.”

Heading into the game, there was no guarantee that Ohtani would pitch on Tuesday. Left-handed pitcher Shota Imanaga is starting for Japan and Yu Darvish was available out of the bullpen.

But Japan manager Hideki Kuriyama said after Japan’s semifinal win on Monday that there was “not a zero chance” that Ohtani could pitch in relief in the championship.

Trout, the three-time American League MVP and 10-time All-Star, would welcome that challenge. He told reporters before the World Baseball Classic that he was “looking forward” to potentially stepping into the box against Ohtani.

“I get a front-row seat every time he pitches when he’s with us, so it’s pretty nasty,” Trout said. “And every person I talk to that faces him says they don’t want to be in the box. So it’s going to be interesting. I’m looking forward to it. He’s one of my good friends, so it’s going to be fun.”

Team USA manager Mark DeRosa, however, has other opinions.

“I’m good if he doesn’t pitch,” DeRosa said with a laugh. “No, I would be interested honestly, as a baseball fan, and what Shohei — obviously, Mike is off the charts, one of the 10 greatest players of all time probably when it’s all said and done, [but] Shohei’s doing something we’ve never seen in the entire sport. I’m going to be interested to see, if he does come into the game, kind of the back story of how he was able to get loose because if he’s DHing, we’ve hit in that cage on that home side, there’s not much room for him to kind of maneuver in there. So I would be interested to see how they’re going to play that out if he has to pitch.”

Regardless of if the matchup takes place, both Trout and Ohtani have excelled during the World Baseball Classic.

Trout entered the final with a .318 batting average (7 for 22), .444 on-base percentage and .591 slugging mark with one home run, seven RBI, one double, one triple and four runs scored through six games.

Ohtani, meanwhile, entered the final hitting .450 (9 for 20), with a .621 on-base percentage, and .800 slugging mark with one home run, eight RBI, four doubles, nine runs scored and one stolen base. On the mound, Ohtani has a 2.08 ERA, giving up two earned runs over 8 2/3 innings while striking out 10 over two starts.

This and that

DeRosa on if he would consider managing in the big leagues if given the chance after managing Team USA in the World Baseball Classic: “I’ve enjoyed every second of it and if that opportunity presents itself, I’ll certainly exhaust it and take a look at it. But I didn’t do this for that to happen. I’m certainly not thinking about it right now. I just want to do right by the 30 guys in there and my coaches. We have worked hard to get them to relax and play as a team and come together and have fun and gel and it’s happened. That’s what I’m proud of.”

Team USA outfielder Kyle Schwarber on the World Baseball Classic as a whole: “This is kind of our Olympics. We don’t get that opportunity to really play wherever the Olympics are at. So for us to represent our country and to see the way that the fans have been reacting in our games — this is playoffs before the season even starts.”