Angels Shohei Ohtani avoids IL, but likely reduced to hitting only in 2020

Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images)
Shohei Ohtani, Los Angeles Angels (Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images) /

After the results of his MRI came in, the prognosis for Shohei Ohtani returning to the mound for the Angels in 2020 appears dim.

When Shohei Ohtani left the mound on Sunday, and word leaked of the pitcher receiving an MRI on his surgically-repaired elbow, optimism was already running short on whether he would pitch again in 2020. Now that the results are in, that optimism has all but dried up.

The Los Angeles Angels announced on Monday that Ohtani has a grade 1-2 strain of the flexor-pronator mass in his pitching elbow. The injury will shut him down from throwing for a minimum of 4-6 weeks.

While it is not completely out of the question that Ohtani could pitch again in 2020, the likelihood of the right-hander being able to rest for a month and a half, begin a throwing program, and be ready to go before the end of the season is almost nonexistent.

The earliest he could begin a new throwing program would be September 6th, if the Angels backdate his timetable to his Sunday start. Ohtani would then require a week or two, at the minimum, to ramp up his pitching and build up endurance. With the season only being 60 games and ending on September 27th, there just doesn’t appear to be the time to make that happen. Moreso, the Angels may be wise to simply let him rehab the arm and give him a full winter of build-up rather than rush him back.

If this is the last we see of Ohtani on the mound in 2020, he will finish the season with a 0-1 record after just two starts and 1.2 innings of work. While he to record three strikeouts in that span, he also surrendered three hits, seven runs (all earned), and walked eight.

Shohei Ohtani Injury: The Silver Lining for the Angels

The good news with Ohtani is that his two-way status with the club means the glass will always be half full. While he may not be able to pitch again in 2020, that doesn’t appear to preclude him from being a full-time designated hitter for the team. The Angels said as much in their announcement, noting that he would still be traveling with the team and will be day-to-day in regard to when he can rejoin the lineup.

Of course, this isn’t the worst news when it comes to Ohtani’s elbow. The lack of damage to the UCL itself means that he escapes another Tommy John procedure. While setbacks are normal in the recovery from the surgery, Ohtani is more than a year and a half removed from the operation and the Angels had handled him lightly leading up to his return in 2020.

With that in mind, we raised the question of whether the Angels and Ohtani should focus more on his ability with the bat. Aside from the injury concerns, the lost productivity of pitching him once a week, and resting him on both sides of his starts vastly reduces the value he contributes in that department.

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When Ohtani does return to the lineup, he will have some reinforcements. The Angels are calling up the team’s top prospect, Jo Adell, prior to Tuesday game in Seattle. Mike Trout is also expected to rejoin the team after missing the last several games while on paternity leave.