Notes: Ohtani's aches, Sandoval's status

July 12th, 2020

ANAHEIM -- Two-way star experienced some back stiffness after pitching in an intrasquad game Tuesday, but Angels manager Joe Maddon said he’s optimistic Ohtani will make his next scheduled start.

Ohtani was healthy enough to play in an intrasquad game Saturday as a designated hitter and had a double off reliever .

“My back has been feeling better by the day and today I didn’t feel any symptoms, so I think we are past that one,” Ohtani said in a release from the Angels. “My bullpen was scheduled for today and my back felt good, so I gave it a go. The coaches told me I can get some at-bats if I wanted to and my body felt good after the bullpen, so I gave that a go.”

Ohtani struggled in his first mound outing of Summer Camp at Angel Stadium on Tuesday, walking eight batters in three innings, and he felt some back stiffness the day after his outing. It was Ohtani’s first competitive outing on the mound since September 2018 before he had Tommy John surgery and left knee surgery.

“He's actually doing well,” Maddon said via Zoom on Saturday. “He just had a little bit of a stiff back after the last time he played. I talked to him yesterday. He's feeling good. Obviously, we're going to be cautious with him right now. I'm optimistic that he's going to be able to take his turn and pitch this coming week, but as of right now there is nothing alarming. He just felt a little stiffness.”

Ohtani is scheduled to pitch once a week and serve as designated hitter three to five times a week this season, much like his first year in 2018, when he won the American League Rookie of the Year Award. Ohtani is likely to pitch on Sundays, though Maddon said that remains undecided.

Maddon said he’s not worried about how Ohtani fares on the mound or at the plate in Summer Camp, as he has a history of turning it on once the season starts.

“He needs the bell to ring,” Maddon said. “He needs the bright lights. When I watch a guy like Shohei practice, I don't get wound up one way or the other. Any guy that's really good, a generational player like he is, you just make sure that he's healthy and he's getting his reps. And that's where I'm at with him. The games are going to show up, it's going to matter and he is going to swing the bat extremely well.”

Sandoval behind other starters
was held out of camp until Thursday, and Maddon said he’s not sure how stretched out the left-hander will be for the start of the Angels’ season July 24. Sandoval is in the mix for a spot in the back end of the rotation, but he’s behind such others as , and .

“He’s going to need a little time to work back into it,” Maddon said. “That’s the phrase I heard, but I haven’t laid eyes on him. I just know he’s here and he’s moving along and he’s better.”

Barria pitched well again Friday in intrasquad action and has impressed Maddon. Barria might be the odd man out in the rotation battle, but he gives the Angels much-needed depth, especially with right-hander still not in camp. Maddon said he’s still not sure when Teheran will arrive at camp.

"Jaime has been good," Maddon said. "He threw some really good breaking pitches. He's a really confident young man. ... He knows what he's doing out there."

Angels tidbits
• Maddon consistently has mentioned right-handers and as under-the-radar relievers who could make the club. Mayers has the slight upper hand because he’s on the 40-man roster, but Barnes has had more success in the Majors. Barnes, 30, has a career 4.25 ERA with 185 strikeotus in 180 innings in four years in the Majors, while Mayers, 28, has a career 7.03 ERA with 70 strikeouts in 80 2/3 innings in four years in the Majors.

• The Angels have a few emergency plans for the backup job at first base behind . is still absent from camp, and arrived on Thursday. is expected to get a few reps there in Summer Camp. Other options include , catcher and possibly . Maddon is hopeful Thaiss and Walsh will be ready for the start of the season.

• The Angels held an abbreviated intrasquad game of only three innings Saturday. Relievers , , and Ramirez saw action. Top prospect Jo Adell was impressive yet again, hitting a single and a triple after homering on Thursday.