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Angels continue conservative use of Shohei Ohtani but that could change in the future

It was the late innings of a taut game — a game they would eventually lose — and the Angels had one of the most dangerous, productive hitters in baseball on their bench.

That's where Shohei Ohtani stayed Saturday during the ninth, 10th, 11th and 12th innings, with manager Mike Scioscia opting to not employ him as a potential game-altering pinch-hitter.

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The decision honored the team's original plan of resting Ohtani on the days before and after he pitches with the focus being on his long-term health and availability.

Scioscia suggested Sunday that the plan could change.

"This is a template that's very conservative right now," he said. "If we [need to] move off of that as his career goes on, then we'll evaluate it at that time."

Scioscia said the fact that the game Sunday started at 1 p.m. also would have made playing Ohtani late Saturday night more difficult.

"There's not as much recovery time if you use him last night," he said. "When he puts on that pitching cap, it's important for us to respect that and let him get ready to pitch."

Ohtani's start against Minnesota was his sixth overall and fourth on a Sunday. He was sharp, allowing just three hits in 6 1/3 innings and striking out 11 in a no-decision. He could've used his own bat in the lineup as the Angels scored just one run behind him.

Scioscia said the Angels had looked at attempting to align Ohtani to start last week during either of their games in Colorado but the schedule didn't break correctly.

That would have permitted Ohtani to bat — thus noticeably lengthening the Angels lineup — since the designated hitter isn't used in games played in National League parks.

Scioscia on Sunday even left open the possibility of the Angels one day going without a designated hitter in an American League game started by Ohtani, allowing him to bat.

Such a move would put the team at a tactical disadvantage because of a need to pinch-hit for the pitcher's spot once Ohtani is relieved, straining an already thin bench.

"We have considered it," Scioscia said. "It would take an extreme, you know, something you might consider in September, if it was something that was really critical and you needed his bat in the lineup."

Short hops

The win Sunday came with a loss, a potentially significant one, when reliever Keynan Middleton walked off the mound in the eighth because of what Scioscia called "a little elbow discomfort." Having just returned from the disabled list Thursday because of inflammation in the same area, Middleton left after getting two outs and throwing 12 pitches. He's scheduled to have an MRI exam on Monday. … Matt Shoemaker (forearm strain) is scheduled to see a nerve specialist in Missouri on Tuesday. … Angels starters have given up 20 earned runs in 74 2/3 innings over the last 13 games for a 2.41 earned-run average.

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