The historical ramifications of Shohei Ohtani’s two-way rookie season will now reach beyond the box score as he attempts to resume his pitching career.
Ohtani and the Angels face the unprecedented challenge of rehabilitating his sprained ulnar collateral ligament while continuing to employ him as a designated hitter.
“It’s tough to fill in all the details until you see how the progression goes,” manager Mike Scioscia said. “We have to be very flexible with it.”
Ohtani was medically cleared to begin a throwing program Thursday. He played catch before the game Friday and then went 0 for 3 as the Angels’ DH against Houston.
The right-hander remains several weeks away from pitching in a game. But as Ohtani gets deeper into his comeback, the Angels will have to figure out how best to ready him as a pitcher while keeping his bat available.
That could mean staging simulated games, which would allow Ohtani to remain on the active roster.
A stint on the disabled list would permit him to go on a rehab assignment, but that would cost the Angels his services as a hitter.
Whatever plan the team follows, general manager Billy Eppler said the Angels will continue to rest Ohtani on the days before and after he pitches.
“We just need to do what’s best for the player,” Eppler said. “If it lends itself to making starts here, great. If it takes longer, it takes longer.”
Scioscia said the Angels anticipate that Ohtani will pitch for them again this season “if everything with his rehab goes as planned.”
Ohtani was treated with platelet-rich plasma and stem-cell injections June 7 in an attempt to avoid ligament replacement surgery that would sideline him as a pitcher until 2020.
Eppler reiterated Friday that no doctor has told him Ohtani will require the procedure.
Citing his own interactions and research, Eppler also explained that he didn’t believe undergoing the operation now to attempt to ensure the injury is repaired would be in Ohtani’s best interest.
“I can tell you the consensus among that group [the medical community]
is to never push a player into surgery,” Eppler said. “I gotta take the advice of people who spent a lot of time and a lot of money getting those degrees.”
The growing list of surgically repaired Angels this season now includes Parker Bridwell, who had a bone spur removed from his right elbow this week.
A 10-game winner for the Angels in 2017, Bridwell has spent most of this season struggling to stay healthy at triple-A Salt Lake. He has pitched only 28 innings for the Bees.
Bridwell made one start for the Angels in April and retired just five Oakland A’s while giving up six runs.
Reliever Jim Johnson (lumbar strain) was scheduled to make another rehab appearance Friday night. His next step could be to rejoin the Angels’ bullpen. …The Angels likely will option down a reliever to make room for Nick Tropeano, who will return from the DL on Saturday and start against the Astros.