Should the LA Angels have let Shohei Ohtani take the mound?

ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 06: Shohei Ohtani #17 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim pitches during a game against the Kansas City Royals at Angel Stadium on June 6, 2018 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - JUNE 06: Shohei Ohtani #17 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim pitches during a game against the Kansas City Royals at Angel Stadium on June 6, 2018 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) /

Shohei Ohtani was like a breath of fresh that seemed to infuse life into the LA Angels & their fans. The 1st 2 months of the season the Angels played pretty good ball & Ohtani was a big part of this resurgence.

The LA Angels and Shohei Ohtani could not have asked for a better start to the season as Ohtani hit .296 with six homers and 20 RBIs in the first two months of the season.  On the mound Ohtani was just as good if not better going 4-1 with a 3.10 ERA striking out 61 batters in only 49 innings of work.

Every time Ohtani pitched Angel Stadium was abuzz with anticipation and until that fateful day in June when Ohtani took the mound against the Kansas City Royals.  Ohtani did not look sharp and after four innings which Ohtani battled through four innings giving up three hits and one earned run with three walks and four strikeouts.

It was first said Ohtani was suffering from fatigue, but it was later revealed that Ohtani had UCL damage in his elbow. Ohtani was placed on the disabled list and the wind went out of the Angels sails.  The Angels started to fall further and further behind  Houston and Oakland as well as Seattle.  It was not just because the Angels lost Ohtani, but other injuries to players such as Matt Shoemaker, J.C. Ramirez, Keynan Middleton, Blake Wood, and Garrett Richards that did the Halos in.

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Ohtani was able to come back in July and hit again serving as the DH in three to four games a week.  Ohtani started rehabbing his elbow in the middle of July after receiving  platelet-rich injection that promote healing.  Ohtani started throwing and worked his way up to pitching in a couple of simulated games.  Then came the announcement that he was ready to take the mound again for the Angels in Houston.

On one hand I was very excited to see Ohtani pitch again.  That was the fan in me talking. My logical side looking at things as part of a bigger picture said that they should just let Ohtani continue to rehab and not try to get him back on the mound this season.  i didn’t want to be without one of our best arms for a whole season and possibly longer.

When Ohtani came out of his first start after only 2.1 innings I was concerned and yesterday my fears were realized as it was reported that Ohtani had new damage to his UCL and would most likely be having surgery to repair it.  This meant that he would  be out for all of the 2019 season. My worst nightmare had come true.

I’m not sure why the Angels were pushing to have Ohtani pitch again this season. I’m sure there was a reason behind the decision.  However without that knowledge, to me it looks like a very bonehead move.  I have heard from some reports that they wanted to test Ohtani’s elbow to see if it could withstand pitching  in a competitive game where your adrenaline is pumping.  As we found out Ohtani’s elbow was not able to pass this test.

So what’s next for Ohtani?  It looks like the Angels will continue to have Ohtani DH especially with the way he has been hitting recently.  Most likely he will have off-season surgery to repair his UCL, known better as Tommy John surgery.  If all goes well the Angels could have Ohtani back as a hitter to start next season, but pitching wise we will not see Ohtani on the mound for the Angels until 2020.

Matt Shoemaker looks good in first start.. Next

This does suck as Ohtani’s stuff is electric on the mound and I really have enjoyed watching him pitch this season.  However, this is something that we cannot control.  Ohtani in an expanded role as a DH does excite me some, but it will create an interesting situation for whoever will be managing the Angels next season.  How will they balance Ohtani’s playing time with the need Albert Pujols will have to be a DH as well?  Is there any possibility that could see Ohtani in the field as a first base?  We will just have to wait and see.

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For now we can just enjoy watching an rising star as a hitter as he continues to rise and improve with each game.  Hopefully that will be enough.