The Angels held Ohtani out of the lineup in his last start on Friday against the A’s, as they had a short bench of only two available position players and Ohtani was coming off an outing that saw his fastball velocity dip roughly 5 mph. When Ohtani hits for himself on days he pitches, the Angels lose the designated hitter and have to pinch-hit for Ohtani once he leaves the game, which complicates things. It’s a reason why Ohtani has also twice moved to right field after coming out of the game as a pitcher to remain in the game to get an extra at-bat.
Ohtani’s velocity improved in his last outing, however, and the Angels currently have a three-man bench, which gives Maddon enough maneuverability to make it work. It marks his fifth time hitting for himself while pitching with American League rules this season.
“I talked to [interpreter] Ippei Mizuhara before the game, just because I didn't want to bother Shohei with his prep work," Maddon said. "And Ippei brought it to me after the game and we just talked and [Ohtani] wants to hit tomorrow, too."
Ohtani was also relegated to pinch-hitter duty against the Giants in their Interleague series in San Francisco on Monday and Tuesday, going 0-for-1 with a strikeout on Monday. He also had Wednesday's off-day to rest and recover.
Maddon explained that he always has a conversation with Ohtani about how he’s feeling and if he wants to be in the lineup, and then analyzes the club’s bench situation to make his determination. The Angels went from a four-man bench to a three-man bench on Thursday, as they reinstated reliever Chris Rodriguez from the injured list and optioned catcher Anthony Bemboom to Triple-A Salt Lake.
"When you have a normal bench with three to four extra guys, rock and roll, it's easy, but when it's two or three guys, it becomes more problematic," Maddon said before the game. "So I sit in the morning and I do this stuff and write down all the different potentialities and what may occur. If you roll with it, the worst part would be being forced to have a pitcher hitting in that spot early in the game. That's the worst thing that can happen."
Ohtani indicated after his start on Friday that he prefers to be in the lineup when pitching and that the only disadvantage is that he sometimes can get tired running the bases. Catcher Kurt Suzuki also noted that Ohtani doesn’t have as much time to go over the upcoming hitters in between innings, as well, but it doesn’t make a huge difference.
Ohtani, 26, went 0-for-4 with a flyout to deep center on Thursday and is slashing .258/.324/.584 with 15 homers, 11 doubles, three triples, seven stolen bases and 40 RBIs in 51 games. He's also posted a 2.72 ERA with 50 strikeouts, 26 walks and three homers allowed in 36 1/3 innings. He allowed three runs over six-plus innings with five strikeouts in his last start against the A’s and did it while pitching on eight days’ rest. Maddon liked how Ohtani was able to focus on just pitching in Oakland, but knows how much having Ohtani’s bat in the lineup makes a difference.