Ohtani discusses first half of rookie season

July 15th, 2018

LOS ANGELES -- began his first MLB season as a two-way player for the Angels, but he'll head into his first All-Star break exclusively as a hitter due to a Grade 2 sprain of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.

The Angels are hoping Ohtani will be able to recover his two-way identity in the second half, as the 24-year-old Japanese phenom is scheduled to be evaluated on Thursday to see whether the platelet-rich plasma and stem-cell injections he received on June 7 have continued to help heal his damaged elbow ligament.

While the Angels have missed Ohtani's contributions on the mound, the left-handed slugger remains a key piece of the lineup. He entered Sunday batting .285 with an .893 OPS, seven home runs and 22 RBIs in 156 plate appearances. Before the elbow injury, Ohtani also logged a 3.10 ERA with 61 strikeouts over 49 1/3 innings.

"I didn't set any expectations for myself before the season," Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. "I just wanted to see how things panned out. I had to get through some ups and downs, but overall it went pretty well."

Manager Mike Scioscia praised Ohtani for his success and his ability to quickly adjust to a new country and new league after spending the first five seasons of his career in Japan.

"Shohei has shown that his talent is real, and he can play at a very high level in the Major Leagues," Scioscia said. "We're excited about that. I think he's done remarkably well for a young player coming over with so much on his plate."

Though Ohtani is now a full-time designated hitter, the Angels have tended to sit him against tough left-handed pitchers so far this season. While Ohtani had even splits in Japan, he has posted a .508 OPS against lefties in the Majors, compared to a 1.032 OPS against righties.

Still, Scioscia said the Angels were encouraged by Ohtani's double off Dodgers lefty in Friday's 3-2 loss at Dodger Stadium. Ohtani said he hopes to earn more playing time against lefties moving forward.

"I've been saying this the whole time, I don't really feel uncomfortable hitting lefties," Ohtani said. "I hit them pretty well in Japan, so I just prepare myself for every at-bat. Of course, if I have better results, there are better chances I'll be starting against lefties. But ultimately that's up to Mike Scioscia, so I don't have much say in it."

Worth noting

• The Angels optioned infielder and recalled right-hander from Triple-A Salt Lake on Sunday. It marked Paredes' ninth stint with the Angels this year.

• Jim Johnson (lumbar strain) threw a bullpen at Dodger Stadium on Sunday and is expected to log at least one more rehab outing before he's activated from the disabled list.

"We feel he's getting close," Scioscia said. "We'll see how it goes."