HOUSTON -- Now that Jose Pujols is out with season-ending knee surgery, expect Shohei Ohtani to get more opportunities to prove himself against left-handed pitching.Ohtani was in the Angels' lineup as the designated hitter on Friday night against Astros lefty Framber Valdez, marking Ohtani's first start against a left-hander since
HOUSTON -- Now that Jose Pujols is out with season-ending knee surgery, expect Shohei Ohtani to get more opportunities to prove himself against left-handed pitching.
Ohtani was in the Angels' lineup as the designated hitter on Friday night against Astros lefty Framber Valdez, marking Ohtani's first start against a left-hander since Aug. 6. Ohtani went 1-for-3 with a walk in the 3-0 win at Minute Maid Park.
Since returning from the disabled list on July 3, Ohtani has been starting almost exclusively against righties, allowing Pujols to serve as the DH and get a break from playing first base when a lefty was on the mound.
Ohtani, a lefty bat, has posted underwhelming numbers in his limited opportunities against left-handed pitchers this season, batting .167 with a .509 OPS and zero home runs in 60 at-bats entering Friday. Against righties, he is hitting .313 with a 1.030 OPS and 15 home runs in 176 at-bats.
"I think that as Shohei starts to get more at-bats against left-handed pitching, you'll be able to evaluate him more," manager Mike Scioscia said recently. "He only has  at-bats against left-handed pitching. It's not an excessive amount. But compared to the way he's hit right-handers, obviously, it's like night and day. I think he's going to be a very balanced hitter as he moves forward in his career. But right now, getting acclimated to lefties is one thing that he's working very hard to do."
While Pujols' injury has freed up the DH spot for Ohtani, the two-way phenom will still have limited availability as a hitter over the final month of the season, as he is scheduled to make his comeback as a pitcher in Sunday's series finale at Minute Maid Park. The Angels plan to keep Ohtani's once-a-week pitching schedule in place, meaning he'll be out of the lineup the day before, the day of and the day after his starts.
Under this arrangement, Ohtani will not be available to return to the lineup until Tuesday's game against the Rangers at Globe Life Park.
Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.