Shohei Ohtani’s not in the lineup for first game of Angels’ doubleheader with Twins

Shohei Ohtani smiles and reaches up to the brim of his helmet.
Shohei Ohtani tips his helmet after reaching first base on a bunt during the sixth inning Wednesday against the Cleveland Indians.
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

Angels manager Joe Maddon on Thursday continued to downplay Shohei Ohtani’s loss of velocity this week by pointing to everything else the two-way standout had done to date.

“I think the results have been good this year based on the process that we’ve incorporated,” Maddon said. “I am all about adjusting when it’s necessary. But I don’t like to interfere [given] the proverbial small sample size.”

Concern for Ohtani arose Wednesday when — during a start against Cleveland — his fastball averaged about five miles per hour below his standard for the season.


After the game, both Ohtani and Maddon said Ohtani was fine health-wise and attributed the off performance to fatigue. Ohtani described himself as feeling “really heavy and sluggish” during the outing.

After appearing in each of the Angels’ first 42 games, Ohtani was not in the starting lineup Thursday for the opener of a doubleheader against Minnesota. He was expected to serve as the Angels’ designated hitter in the second game.

The Angels fall short against the Cleveland Indians 3-2 on Wednesday at Angel Stadium.

May 19, 2021

Entering Thursday, Ohtani led baseball with 14 home runs and 99 total bases. His .627 slugging percentage topped the American League.

On the mound, he was 1-0 with a 2.37 ERA in six starts, with 45 strikeouts and 22 walks in 30 1/3 innings. Opponents have batted .154 against him.

Maddon reiterated Thursday morning that Ohtani was healthy and said the plan moving forward remained the same. He emphasized the need to continue an open dialogue and said he believed Ohtani could be trusted to be honest with how he was feeling.


“I think overall he’s proven this year — given the opportunity to do two things — that you should listen to him,” Maddon said. “I mean, between what he’s doing at the plate and what he’s done on the mound, I don’t see any real reason to interfere a whole lot.”

Ohtani pitched 51 2/3 innings as a rookie in 2018 but suffered an injury that resulted in Tommy John surgery, a procedure that limited him only to hitting in 2019.

Last season, Ohtani’s time as a pitcher lasted just two games and 1 2/3 innings because of a strain to the flexor-pronator mass near his right elbow. For his big-league career, he still has pitched only 83 2/3 innings.

On Wednesday, San Diego’s Yu Darvish wrote on social media that he sometimes experienced dips in velocity after his Tommy John surgery.

The Angels’ Shohei Ohtani is basically now an everyday player who pitches once a week. He’s tied for the league lead in home runs and is pitching effectively.

April 27, 2021

Maddon, who managed Darvish with the Chicago Cubs, didn’t dismiss the idea that Ohtani could be going through something similar.

“When guys come back from Tommy John, there’s normally a period where things are inconsistent, no question,” he said. “I think if you talk to every one of them, they’ll tell you the same thing.

“They’re not robots. They got flesh and bone and blood running through them. They’re going to be subject to different feelings. … Some days, you just don’t feel the same way. Other days, you feel like you could conquer the world.”

For now, Maddon said the Angels would continue to monitor Ohtani and make any adjustments — to his playing time or between-games routine — deemed necessary.

Calling Ohtani’s regimen very “scripted,” he said he did not want to offer too many changes and have an adverse impact.

“I don’t want to get in the way of the naturalness of everything that he does,” Maddon said. “That’s another thing you have to be careful with. … That high level of an athlete, I would not want to [introduce] too many thoughts that could possibly put him in the wrong direction.”