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Angels’ Shohei Ohtani undergoes MRI, raising questions for pitching staff

Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
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Angels, Patrick Sandoval
Patrick Sandoval, Los Angeles Angels (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Shohei Ohtani injury: Who will take his spot in the Angels’ rotation?

With Ohtani currently held to only Sunday starts, thanks to his status as a two-way player, the Angels have some time to figure things out. The team also gets to enjoy its first off-day of the season on Monday, allowing Joe Maddon and his coaches to get the results of the MRI back before making any determination.

However, even if the MRI comes back negative, the Angels will likely be cautious with their star. Given his somewhat recent surgery and the discomfort coming from his surgically repaired elbow, the team could shut down Ohtani for at least one start. This will allow him to throw a supervised bullpen, not only to potentially see how he feels but to also work through some mechanical issues.

So what options do the Angels have if he misses his next start?

Angels could return to a five-man rotation

Currently, the Halos have a six-man rotation, but that was mostly in place to accommodate the team’s desire to limit Ohtani’s pitching appearances to once weekly. That was a plan the previous regime used with the right-hander, but Maddon chose to adopt and hopefully keep him healthy.

If Ohtani were to miss any time, the Angels could opt to move their rotation back to a five-man group, with Andrew Heaney, Dylan Bundy, Griffin Canning, and Matt Andriese already in the mix. Julio Teheran is set to rejoin the team at some point this week.

While that plan has some merit, it could be both beneficial and detrimental for the same reason.

Until Griffin Canning went six innings on Saturday against the Astros, Dylan Bundy (twice) had been the only Angels starter to make it throw six innings on the season. That has created a lot of long bullpen games.

While Joe Maddon has thus far wanted to ease his starters back into pitching regularly, perhaps getting them on a five-day schedule would help increase their durability. On the other hand, if they are already having difficulty with their innings now, reducing their rest between outings could also lead to further issues, depending on how each pitcher responds.

Which leads to our other option.

Angels could add Patrick Sandoval back to the rotation

With the scheduled off-day on Monday, the Angels previously optioned Patrick Sandoval back to the minor league camp. This was done to make sure he got work in when he would otherwise be skipped in the rotation.

With the lefty coming off of a shortened summer camp, Sandoval made only one appearance before the season started. He would make his first start against the Mariners on July 28th and the results were solid. However, he lasted just four innings, giving up two runs (1 earned) and striking out four.

Like the rest of the Angels starters, Sandoval comes with his own endurance concerns after his abbreviated camp. However, if the Angels are intent on keeping the six-man rotation in place while they await Ohtani’s return, bringing Sandoval back into the fold has more appeal than another bullpen game.

That brings us to the final question.

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