Los Angeles Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani is back on the mound after nearly two years away from pitching. He pitched just 1.2 innings last season in between Tommy John surgery in 2019 and a forearm strain in 2020.
He has more than doubled his inning totals from 2020 in Spring Training, and while his numbers leave something to be desired, there are some positive signs. In four innings, he has allowed nine hits and six runs, leading to an ERA of 13.5. However, he has also struck out nine batters, routinely forcing swings and misses on his slider while reaching a velocity of 98-99 on his fastball.
Ohtani gave some insight into his mindset after two starts, saying that there is still some work to be done. However, he’s generally happy about his work thus far, according to Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com:
“Today, I was trying to get ahead in the count but left some pitches hanging to the leadoff hitters,” Ohtani said. “So, it’s something I need to work on. But pitching-wise, up to this point, I’m really excited about the way spring has gone.”
It’s expected that Ohtani will need some time to regain a rhythm. However, Angels manager Joe Maddon said he is not concerned by any lack of conditioning compared to other pitchers.
“It’s just different,” Maddon said. “He’ll be a little bit behind. But we’re not concerned. It’ll only be like 15 pitches behind or something like that.”
Ohtani still has time to get a better feel for his pitches and get up to speed with the rest of the starters as Opening Day is over two weeks from now.
The 2021 season is huge for Ohtani, as he has a legitimate chance to be the Angels ace while proving that he is still the same player that won Rookie of the Year in 2018. He’ll also have a six-man rotation to work with, giving him extra days off to take over the designated hitter spot as he pleases.
Ohtani to pitch next Monday vs. Padres
Ohtani is scheduled to take the mound on Monday, March 21 when the Angels take on the San Diego Padres. It’s unclear whether or not this will be his last start of Spring Training, but it will give him another chance to get a few more innings under his belt.