Ohtani believes he can be 'better' on mound

August 14th, 2021

ANAHEIM -- For as well as has pitched since the All-Star break, the two-way star still doesn’t feel like he is at his peak.

“Physically, I feel really good, but I feel like I'm getting better each outing and I still haven't hit my potential yet,” Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. “I think I have room to get better going forward.”

Ohtani logged his fifth straight outing of six innings or more on Thursday against the Blue Jays to improve to 5-0 at Angel Stadium, where he has a 1.92 ERA in 10 starts. His ERA in the second half of the season is 1.44 over 25 innings.

Angels manager Joe Maddon, who has been pleased with Ohtani's outings, said he believes Ohtani might be looking to go deeper into his starts. But given that Ohtani only pitched 1 2/3 innings in '20 after having Tommy John surgery in '18, Maddon said the club is being watchful of his workload.

“We're still keeping an eye on [him],” Maddon said. “He hardly pitched at all last year. Whatever the jump is, it’s going to be dramatic, so we're cognizant of that.”

In 17 starts in 2021, the longest Ohtani has gone in an outing is seven innings, which he has done three times.

For the most part, Maddon said he has not been holding Ohtani back, but Ohtani’s improved command in the latter part of this season could help him pitch deeper into games.

“I'm not holding back,” Maddon said. “He's hitting nice numbers and I don't want to push it too much. He might even get better at that because his command got so much better. … I appreciate what he's saying, but it's hard to do better than he has.”

Warren’s early impressions
Since making his big league debut on July 29, reliever Austin Warren has done nothing but impress Maddon.

Warren, 25, has a 3.12 ERA and 0.92 WHIP in 8 2/3 innings despite pitching against contending teams like the A’s, Dodgers and Blue Jays. His roughest outing came against Toronto on Tuesday, when he gave up two runs on three hits in one inning in Game 1 of a doubleheader.

Maddon said what Warren has shown him up to this point is proof enough that the rookie is ready for high-leverage spots.

“Whenever it's going to be vital, he'll be out there,” Maddon said. “He's gonna normally pitch almost always even or ahead. As of right now, you don't want to pitch a guy like that when you're behind. You want to put him on the premium part of [the opposition's] lineup.”