ANAHEIM -- The Angels plan to have Shohei Ohtani back as a two-way player in 2021, and after beginning his throwing program in early October, the right-hander is currently throwing from 120 feet at 75-80 percent intensity, the club announced Friday.
Ohtani made just two starts in 2020 before being shut down with a right forearm strain that kept him from pitching again the rest of the season. He remained in action as a designated hitter but mostly struggled, batting .190/.291/.366 with seven homers and 24 RBIs in 44 games.
The Angels, though, are giving Ohtani, 26, the chance to return as a two-way player yet again and are hopeful he’ll be able to avoid injury this time. Ohtani, who was the American League Rookie of the Year in 2018, didn’t pitch in '19 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. He also underwent an operation on his left knee in September '19 that pushed back his rehab from Tommy John surgery heading into last season.
Ohtani, however, is expected to be fully healthy heading into this Spring Training, unlike the last two seasons. He’s likely to be on a similar schedule to his rookie year, pitching once a week and serving as DH three to four times a week. That was the plan in 2020 before his forearm injury.
If Ohtani suffers another injury, there remains a chance the club could make him a full-time position player. He took grounders at first base and fly balls in right field during the season in an attempt to increase his versatility going forward.
Angels manager Joe Maddon would love to get more creative with Ohtani, but the biggest question remains if Ohtani can stay healthy as both a pitcher and a position player. It’s a good sign he started his throwing program early this offseason, giving him a chance to build up his arm strength long before heading into Spring Training.