JUNE 30: Ohtani is “healthy” and ready to take on both pitching and hitting duties when camp re-opens, per GM Billy Eppler (via Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com, on Twitter).
JUNE 25: Angels manager Joe Maddon gave some good news on right-hander/designated hitter Shohei Ohtani yesterday, telling reporters that the two-way star will be utilized similarly to how he would in a normal 162-game season (Twitter link via MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger). That will line Ohtani up to pitch once per week as part of what Maddon expects to be a six-man Angels rotation.
The delayed start to the season looks to have given Ohtani ample time to fully recover from both his 2018 Tommy John procedure and last September’s left knee surgery. The Halos can now deploy him as their primary DH on days when he doesn’t pitch — and enjoy the benefit of a bat that has produced a career .286/.352/.531 slash — and consider him the highest-upside pitcher in their rotation.
We haven’t seen Ohtani on a big league mound since Sept. 2, 2018, but in that rookie year he worked to a 3.31 ERA with averages of 11 strikeouts, 3.8 walks and 1.05 home runs allowed per nine innings pitched. He’s still only totaled 51 2/3 frames as a pitcher in the Majors, but there’s plenty of reason to be bullish on the 25-year-old’s future in the rotation.
Maddon also said he’s “very” hopeful that fellow right-handers Griffin Canning and Felix Pena will be ready for the new Opening Day (Twitter link via The Athletic’s Fabian Ardaya). Canning has been progressing through a throwing program after receiving an ominous elbow diagnosis back in Spring Training (“chronic changes” to the UCL and acute joint irritation). He was cleared of any tearing in his problematic ligament, though, and has had no setbacks since receiving an injection.
Pena, meanwhile, tore his ACL while covering first base last August. He underwent surgery that came with a recovery timetable of up to nine months, and it seems he’s progressed through that rehabilitation process without much issue. While he was questionable for the original opener, the 30-year-old swingman should be a solid multi-inning piece for the Angels now that he’s healthy and could even start some games. He’s made 24 starts in the past two seasons and pitched seven hitless innings of relief against the Mariners in last year’s memorable and emotional combined no-hitter.
Ohtani and Canning will be joined southpaw Andrew Heaney and newcomers Julio Teheran and Dylan Bundy in a revamped Halos rotation. Pena could be in the mix for the sixth spot to which Maddon alluded, although there will likely be several names in that competition. Matt Andriese, Patrick Sandoval, Jaime Barria, Jose Suarez, Dillon Peters and old friend/non-roster invitee JC Ramirez could all be considered. And regardless of who is tabbed to round out the unit come July 23-24, the Angels’ overwhelming rash of injuries in recent years serves as a reminder that depth is key and a rotation outlook can change in a hurry as health troubles arise.