Ohtani optimistic about 2-way status for 2020

September 25th, 2019

ANAHEIM -- addressed the media before Tuesday's 3-2 win over the A's for the first time since undergoing season-ending surgery on his left knee on Sept. 13, and said he believes he’ll be ready for the start of the 2020 season as a two-way player.

Ohtani, who underwent a procedure to repair a bipartite patella, will need eight to 12 weeks of recovery time. But he’ll still be able to go through his throwing program in December to complete his recovery from last October’s Tommy John surgery. He’s likely to be behind the other pitchers at the start of Spring Training, but Ohtani and the Angels aren’t too worried about his timeline.

"It's coming along smoothly," Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. "I was told I'll have plenty of time to get this all right, including my throwing program. I just have to get the knee right first, which is not going to take too long, then I can start a throwing progression."

Ohtani, the reigning American League Rookie of the Year, was aware of his condition since childhood, as he was essentially born with two kneecaps that never properly fused in his left knee. However, it didn’t start bothering him until this spring, which is when he underwent an MRI exam that confirmed the diagnosis. Ohtani elected to play through the injury because it never hindered him while running or hitting, but it got to a point where it was affecting his bullpen sessions.

"Looking at my sprint speed and stolen bases, it was pretty similar to last year,” Ohtani said. “Running wise, I guess it didn't bother it too much. I probably could've not gotten the surgery and played through it next season, but I thought it was better to just completely take care of it, just for that peace of mind."

Ohtani, 25, finished his second season hitting .286/.343/.505 with 18 homers, 20 doubles, five triples, 12 stolen bases and 62 RBIs in 106 games as the club’s regular designated hitter. He did have trouble with his power in the second half, hitting just four homers in 53 games.

Ohtani hit the ball slightly harder than last year, improving his average exit velocity from 92.6 mph to 92.8, but his average launch angle dropped from 12.3 degrees to 6.8, sapping his power. Ohtani couldn't say for sure if his elbow or knee affected his ability to drive the ball into the air.

“I felt like I could have put together a lot better season,” Ohtani said. “I felt like I was going through struggles that lasted a little too long. It wasn’t what I imagined, especially with the team situation. It should have been a lot better.”

Just like his rookie campaign, Ohtani will get the chance to serve as both a DH and a pitcher next year. The plan is still for him to pitch once while seeing action at DH roughly four times a week. Ohtani, though, is taking nothing for granted.

“I feel like nothing is set for me,” Ohtani said. “I still need to win a spot in Spring Training. But personally, I feel like I’ll be ready to go from Opening Day, just like last year."

La Stella could return this weekend

Infielder , who has been out since July 2 with a broken right tibia, will run the bases on Wednesday as a final hurdle before possibly being reinstated for the final series against the Astros that starts on Thursday. La Stella, an All-Star for the first time this season, wants to finish the year healthy and in the lineup -- the Angels are hopeful he can serve as designated hitter a few times during the four-game series.

“He would like to get on the field before the season ends and kind of bring some closure to it,” Angels manager Brad Ausmus said. “Obviously, the games don’t have a ton of meaning, but I think for him, they’re more meaningful than they are in the standings.”

Stassi to undergo surgery

Catcher will undergo surgery on his right hip on Monday and will have a recovery time of roughly four to six months, possibly affecting his status for Spring Training. Stassi hasn’t played since Sept. 3 due to the injury, which didn’t happen on a specific play but over time. Stassi, 28, went 3-for-42 in 20 games with the Angels after being acquired from the Astros at the Trade Deadline.

"Potentially in Spring Training, he’s back,” Ausmus said. "I think it was more of a gradual thing. It wasn’t an actual event or an isolated event. It just kind of happens over time."

Angels claim Wong

The Angels claimed infielder from the Rays on Tuesday and transferred right-hander Griffin Canning to the 60-day injured list to make room on the roster. Wong, who was 3-for-14 with Tampa Bay this season, will join the Angels on Wednesday.

The 24-year-old is the brother of Cardinals infielder Kolten Wong and hit .307/.375/.464 with 10 homers and 63 RBIs in 113 games with Triple-A Durham. He gives the Angels some infield depth going forward, as the former fourth-round pick in the 2013 MLB Draft still has Minor League options.