Ohtani to serve as DH, won't pitch on Sunday

September 30th, 2021

ARLINGTON -- Angels two-way star 's season on the mound is done, as manager Joe Maddon said on Wednesday that Ohtani will not start this Sunday's season finale against the Mariners.

Ohtani, the frontrunner for the American League MVP Award, made 23 starts and finished 9-2 with 156 strikeouts, 44 walks and 15 homers allowed in 130 1/3 innings. The right-hander's last start for 2021 was this past Sunday against Seattle, when he allowed one run over seven innings with 10 strikeouts in a no-decision. But with the Angels eliminated from postseason contention, Ohtani won’t start against the AL Wild Card contending Mariners, but he will remain in the lineup as the designated hitter in every game the rest of the way.

Ohtani's 45 homers at the plate ranked third in the Majors behind Kansas City’s Salvador Perez (47) and Toronto’s Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (46) entering Wednesday's game against the Rangers at Globe Life Field.

“Just talking with him, he just felt it was the right time to shut her down, so that’s what we’re going to do,” Maddon said. “It’s really not complicated. We’re just going to have him focus on his hitting the rest of the year and not worry about pitching. He finished with two really strong outings and there’s nothing to really gain right now. So it’s probably best to not pitch him. And again, this came from a conversation with him.”

Ohtani, 27, had the lowest ERA (3.18) by an Angels pitcher with at least 20 starts in a season since Garrett Richards (2.61) in 2014. He also finishes the year unbeaten at home, going 6-0 with a 1.95 ERA in 13 starts.

Ohtani made it through the season without any major injuries, as he only missed time with minor ailments, such as a blister on his finger and a bruised right hand from being hit by a pitch. Maddon said he believes Ohtani exceeded expectations as a pitcher this year. He finished strong as his command improved, as he went 5-1 with a 2.84 ERA, 69 strikeouts and nine walks in 63 1/3 innings in the second half, compared to going 4-1 with 87 strikeouts and 35 walks in 67 innings before the All-Star break.

"I haven't done a full postmortem thing, but superficially, my gosh, what he's done has never been done before,” Maddon said. “We've talked about it a thousand times. And to finish as strongly as he did in 130 innings, this could not have worked out any better. I think 130 is a really nice number going into next year. His confidence came up, and he figured out his delivery -- where he knows where his fastball is going, and you saw the splitter."

Ohtani’s splitter was perhaps the most dominant pitch in the Majors, as batters hit just .087 (11-for-127) against it, with two doubles and no homers. Batters also slugged just .102 against his splitter and he struck out 77 batters with it, including a whiff rate of 48.5 percent.

Maddon said he expects Ohtani to pitch on a similar schedule in 2022 as part of a six-man rotation and he’s expected to serve as the club’s regular DH without any restrictions just like this season. Ohtani entered Wednesday batting .256/.370/.592 with 45 homers, 25 doubles, seven triples, 98 RBIs, 99 runs scored and 24 stolen bases in 150 games.

“Everything he did this year, I think is just going to permit him to have more confidence next year,” Maddon said. “I would obviously like to see him replicate it and add more innings next year. That’s about it.”