CHICAGO -- The baseball world will have to wait a little longer -- or perhaps a lot longer -- to see Shohei Ohtani take the mound for the Angels again.
Manager Joe Maddon had stated prior to Tuesday’s series opener at Guaranteed Rate Field that Alex Cobb would be activated to start Thursday’s game against the White Sox, and Ohtani was “penciled” in to open the series against the A’s at home on Friday. Cobb took the bump on Thursday afternoon to make his first start since July 23. But Maddon revealed that Ohtani would not pitch in the three-game Oakland series.
Ohtani -- who last pitched on Friday, when he allowed six runs in 3 1/3 innings in a 10-5 loss at Houston -- played catch on Wednesday, but he came away from the session feeling soreness in his right (throwing) arm. Rather than push Ohtani, the Angels decided to keep him off the mound for the time being.
Maddon said he doesn’t believe Ohtani is dealing with a long-term injury.
“It's just soreness, I think it is, from a long year,” Maddon said. “That'd be my guess, but there's been no plans on him seeing any kind of a doctor.”
Maddon said he has brought up shutting Ohtani down as a pitcher for the rest of the year with his two-way star, but they aren’t ready to make that call. However, Ohtani’s arm soreness and the timing -- the Angels will have 16 games left after Thursday -- might mean he has thrown his last pitch of 2021.
“That could be part of the conversation,” Maddon said. “It hasn't gotten there yet. Actually, I did bring it up, but that'll be something that we'll talk about as he starts to feel better, and then we'll take it from there. I think he's got nine wins, and on a personal level, he probably is thinking about 10 -- 10 always looks better than nine -- but we can't permit that to be the driving factor. So we’ll just wait and see how he feels. ...
“I don’t even know the next day he’s scheduled to play catch. I’ll ask [pitching coach Matt Wise]. If he feels great, adamantly, ‘I feel great,’ I see nothing wrong with [him pitching again], but if there's any kind of lingering soreness, you may see him not pitch. I just don't know that answer yet.”
Ohtani has pitched 115 1/3 innings this season, more than double what he threw combined in 2019 and ‘20, and his status as a two-way superstar has likely led to some fatigue as the regular season winds down. Considering that the Angels aren’t in the playoff hunt, it would make sense for the club to not overwork Ohtani in the final two-plus weeks.
Maddon said there’s no specific date in mind for Ohtani to pitch next. But neither the team nor Ohtani has decided that that means he won’t pitch again.
“He'll continue to do his thing and be playing catch,” Maddon said, “and then we'll determine if he feels good enough to [pitch] again. So I don't know. I think he can, but we've been caught in these circumstances a lot this year. We just have to wait and see.”