ANAHEIM -- Two-way star Shohei Ohtani’s next start on the mound has yet to be determined, as he’s still dealing with a sore thumb sustained after being hit by a foul ball in the Angels’ dugout on Wednesday.
Angels manager Joe Maddon said Ohtani is expected to either pitch late in their four-game series against the Rangers in Texas that runs from Monday to Thursday, or early in their three-game set at Dodger Stadium next weekend. But the injury continues to not affect him as a hitter and he was the designated hitter and batted second against the A’s on Sunday.
“He’ll be at the end of Texas, at the best, or the beginning of L.A., at the best,” Maddon said. “But I don’t have a specific day yet. We just want to make sure. It’s sore, but it’s getting better. We just don’t want him going out there if it’s bothering him. No setbacks. We just want him healed and ready to throw before he goes back out there.”
One advantage to waiting to have Ohtani pitch against the Dodgers would be that he’d be able to hit for himself as the pitcher under National League rules. Otherwise, if he pitches in Texas, he could be relegated to pinch-hitting duties against the Dodgers. He could also play the outfield in the Freeway Series to get at-bats, though the Angels could be cautious because of the injury.
“We’ve played the National League game without him in the past but there is an advantage, absolutely,” Maddon said of Ohtani pitching with NL rules. “But we still don’t have [the date] yet.”
The injury also allows Ohtani to get some extra rest heading into the stretch run. He's made 15 starts this season, posting a 3.04 ERA with 100 strikeouts over 80 innings. His last start came on Monday, when he allowed one run over seven innings in a win over the Rockies. Maddon said he'd prefer Ohtani to be healthy and in the rotation, but he indicated Ohtani is comfortable pitching on extended rest and this injury won't hinder his routine.
“Regardless of how much time he gets between starts, he’s still the same,” Maddon said. “I’m not concerned about him throwing 100 pitches after a couple extra days off, nor do I think the extra rest is really going to propel him the rest of the way. He’s unique. Whatever he does between starts is minimal, and then he goes out there and does what you see. If he's pushed back it doesn't bother me as much as some other guys that are really used to structure."
As for the club’s other injured stars, first baseman Jared Walsh (right intercostal strain) is closer to returning than center fielder Mike Trout (right calf strain) and third baseman Anthony Rendon (left hamstring strain).
Walsh has been able to swing a bat and participate in baseball activities, while Trout is close to ramping up his running. Rendon, however, has yet to begin baseball activities. Trout will need a rehab assignment before he returns; it’s unclear if Walsh or Rendon will need one.