TODAY: After throwing a bullpen session, the Angels now believe the Ohtani is well enough to start this Sunday’s ballgame against Oakland, per MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger (via Twitter).
Sept. 16: Shohei Ohtani won’t pitch during the Angels’ three-game series with the Athletics, though the two-way star had been tentatively slated to start tomorrow’s series opener. Angels manager Joe Maddon told MLB.com’s Ryan Herrera and other reporters that Ohtani came away with a sore arm after a game of catch on Wednesday, so the team will keep him from pitching so his condition can be further monitored. Ohtani will continue to regularly serve as the Angels’ DH, though it is possible Ohtani may have pitched his last game of 2021.
While the situation “hasn’t gotten there yet” in terms of shutting Ohtani down as a pitcher, Maddon said “we just have to wait and see” if Ohtani could take the hill for the 22nd time this season.
“He’ll continue to do his thing and be playing catch, and then we’ll determine if he feels good enough to [pitch] again,” Maddon said. “So I don’t know. I think he can, but we’ve been caught in these circumstances a lot this year.”
There isn’t much left for the Angels to play for this season, so it wouldn’t make much sense for the team to take a risk with Ohtani during what has already been an injury-riddled campaign for the Halos. Losing Mike Trout and Anthony Rendon for the majority of the season spelled doom for a club that needed all the offensive help it could get considering the Angels’ pitching and defensive struggles.
The one big bright spot has been Ohtani’s season for the ages. Combining excellent pitching with elite offense, Ohtani has a 3.36 ERA and 28.8% strikeout rate over 115 1/3 innings on the mound this year, and a .254/.336/.599 slash line and 44 home runs over 564 plate appearances. This incredible performance has evoked comparisons to Babe Ruth, turned Ohtani into a household name, and made him the presumptive frontrunner for the AL MVP Award.
Quite a bit of Ohtani’s production, however, came in the first half of the season. Ohtani has hit only .191/.331/.376 with seven home runs over his last 172 PA, and his most recent pitching outing (on September 10) saw him allow six runs over 3 1/3 innings of work against the Astros. Some decline was probably inevitable given Ohtani’s meteoric start, and his unique workload in staying prepared to both pitch and regularly hit against Major League competition.
Ohtani also pitched only 1 2/3 innings total in 2019-20 due to injuries, including a recovery from Tommy John surgery. That said, whatever wear and tear Ohtani might be feeling has seemingly impacted his bat more than his arm. Apart from that one mediocre start against the Astros, Ohtani has otherwise posted a 2.20 ERA over 45 innings since the All-Star break.