Angels to 'map out' Ohtani's workload amid fatigue concerns

June 12th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Rhett Bollinger’s Angels Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

ANAHEIM -- For the first time this season, two-way superstar  admitted he’s been dealing with a bit more fatigue this year because of his increased workload on the mound.

The Angels have tried to maximize Ohtani’s starts this year, shuffling their rotation when necessary to make sure he pitches every sixth day. But the club decided to give the right-hander extra rest for the first time this week after Monday’s off-day, as it sensed some fatigue from him during his start against the Astros on June 2.

But Ohtani didn’t fare much better with the extra day of rest, pitching five innings against the Mariners and allowing three runs on three hits and five walks in a no-decision. Ohtani, who has a 3.32 ERA in 13 starts this season after posting a 2.33 ERA in 28 outings last year, was asked after the game if he felt the new pitch timer or pitching more often this season had made a difference in the way he feels. He indicated pitching more has been a factor.

“I have been pitching more often compared to the last two years,” Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. “There are times I feel a little more fatigued maybe because of that. But for the most part, I feel pretty good and healthy right now. The goal is to stay healthy until the end of the season.”

The good thing for Ohtani is he’s set to get much more rest due to the decision to push back his start a day. He was originally slated to pitch the final game before the All-Star break on July 8, but now he’ll pitch in the middle of that week. That will give him extended rest during the break, which runs from July 9 to 13. Of course, there’s the chance Ohtani pitches in the 2023 MLB All-Star Game presented by Mastercard on July 11, but that would be treated more like a bullpen session.

Angels manager Phil Nevin was asked on Saturday about what he’s seen from Ohtani regarding fatigue this season, saying he believes the current plan will help give him a bit of a breather heading into the second half. The Halos still haven’t decided how they’ll use their prized two-way player after the All-Star break just yet. They’re likely to keep Ohtani pitching every sixth day, but they could also give him an extra day when needed.

“We’ll map it out,” Nevin said. “I think he just meant he was fatigued in the game. Sometimes that happens. The amount of pitches he had to throw to get some outs fatigued him a little bit. I think it just had to do with the game, not necessarily where he's at in the season.”

Ohtani was again hurt by a homer in his latest start, this time a two-run blast by Jarred Kelenic that came on a sweeper in the middle of the zone. Ohtani threw the pitch twice in a row in the same spot, and Kelenic took advantage.

That sweeper remains one of the best pitches in the game, but Ohtani has allowed seven home runs on it this year. Giving up long balls has been a bit of an issue for him in 2023. Ohtani’s served up 11 homers in 13 starts this year compared to 14 in 28 outings last season. The walks are also troublesome. He's walked 34 in 76 innings this year after issuing 44 free passes in 166 frames in '22.

“Up to this point,” Ohtani said. “I haven’t really felt like I did last year, when I was really good on the mound.”

Ohtani has scuffled on the mound with a 4.88 ERA over his past eight starts, but he’s made up for it at the plate. The left-handed hitter has been on a tear recently, extending his hit streak to eight games on Sunday and improving to a .400 batting average with five homers, four doubles and 12 RBIs over his past 11 contests.

He had three hits, including a two-run homer and a double, in his start on Friday, then he added another two-run homer on Saturday and three more hits on Sunday. Ohtani is batting .287/.359/.571 with 18 homers, 12 doubles, three triples, nine stolen bases and 46 RBIs in 65 games this year. He’s tied for third in the Majors in homers, behind only Pete Alonso (22) and Aaron Judge (19). Ohtani is also third in the Majors with 102 strikeouts as a pitcher.

“He’s been great,” Nevin said. “He’s in as good a place as I’ve seen him. He’s locked in.”