Ohtani to pitch on Sunday against Seattle

September 23rd, 2021

ANAHEIM -- Two-way sensation will get at least one more start on the mound.

Ohtani, who is considered the favorite for the American League MVP Award, is set to make his 23rd start of the year on Sunday against the Mariners at Angel Stadium -- and he could possibly start the season finale in Seattle on Oct. 3. He's coming off a strong outing against the A's on Sunday, striking out 10 over eight innings, while throwing his splitter a career-high 55 times and getting 17 swings and misses with it.

“He said he’s feeling good for Sunday, so we’ll have to have somebody fill in for us on Saturday,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “We’re going to keep him on the path that he’s used to, and we feel good about it.”

Ohtani, who hit his 45th homer of the season on Tuesday, is 9-2 with a 3.28 ERA and 146 strikeouts in 123 1/3 innings this season. He has a chance to reach 10 wins and 150 strikeouts on the mound and has an outside shot at 50 homers and 25 stolen bases as a position player. He’s just one homer behind the Major League leaders -- Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Salvador Perez -- and has also swiped 23 bags this year. The Angels’ club record for homers in a season is also in play for Ohtani, as he’s just two away from tying Troy Glaus (47, 2000).

Ohtani could’ve been pushed as a precaution, as his last start was moved back two days because of soreness in his throwing arm. But Ohtani felt fine after his start on Sunday and this gives him a chance to get one more start at home. Ohtani is 6-0 with a 2.02 ERA and 83 strikeouts over 71 1/3 innings in 12 starts at Angel Stadium this year, while he has a 5.02 ERA with 63 strikeouts over 52 innings in 10 road outings.

Maddon said he expects Ohtani to be in the lineup in every game down the stretch. Ohtani has been incredibly durable this year, as he played in his 145th game as a hitter on Wednesday.

“If he’s feeling it, he’ll play,” Maddon said. “We’re not going to hold him back. We’re not afraid of injury. And you have to look ahead to next year. The more he plays this year, successfully and strong, the more it helps you next season. And if we were playing in October, he’d be tired. So you got to stretch guys out.”

Maddon stated he expects Ohtani to pitch on a similar schedule in 2022, starting on the mound roughly once a week while serving as the club’s regular designated hitter. It would be too difficult for Ohtani to physically handle being a normal member of a five-man rotation, but Maddon said the team can be creative if it has veteran pitchers who want to pitch every five days.

“If we get some veteran guys, real solid veteran guys who like to go every fifth day, I think it would be worked through,” Maddon said. “I don’t think it’s going to be that big of a problem, if it happens.”

Maddon made it clear that he wants major upgrades to the roster going into next year, especially on the pitching side. The Angels, who haven't been to the playoffs since 2014, were officially eliminated from postseason contention with their loss on Tuesday.

"What’s your agenda next year? Is it to participate in the AL West and hopefully, possibly, make it to the end, and play a game in October?” Maddon said. “That should never be the situation. My point is, we have to get guys who are ready to win right now in that rotation in order to get to where we want to be. Otherwise, you’re going to keep perpetuating this method. This can't continue to go on. We can't annually be in this position. This organization is better than that. We deserve better than that. We have to go out and earn it."