Angels Shohei Ohtani Won't Be Ready For Opening Day
Angels rookie sensation, Shohei Ohtani, exploded onto the MLB scene last year with his raw display of slugging power and pitching dominance, until he was forced to call quits on the season early due to injury. Now it's being reported that the star player has still not fully recovered and will not be ready to go on the first day of the forthcoming 2019 season.
Two-way star Shohei Ohtani's recent checkup with Dr. Neal ElAttrache went well and he's been cleared to do full strengthening exercises with his surgically repaired right elbow, but Ohtani won't be ready for Opening Day, Angels general manager Billy Eppler said in a conference call on Thursday.
Ohtani, the reigning American League Rookie of the Year Award winner, underwent Tommy John surgery on Oct. 1 that will keep him from pitching in 2019. But Ohtani is working toward getting cleared to serve as the club's primary designated hitter this season, and his next step will be swinging the bat.
"What is clear to us is that the timing of his progression will not allow him to be active for Opening Day," Eppler said. "Anything beyond that or a timeline beyond that, I can't answer at this time. It's a multi-layered progression he has to go through. To pinpoint a time is unrealistic."
Eppler said Ohtani's rehab is more complicated than most because he's rehabbing as both a position player and a pitcher. So while he continues to make the normal progressions as a hitter from dry swings to hitting off a tee to soft toss to batting practice to facing velocity, he'll also be building up arm strength as a pitcher and moving up his throwing distances before reaching a mound.
"The uniqueness of Shohei also coming back as a pitcher is that you'll have to incorporate the throwing progressions like throwing from farther distances," Eppler said. "One of the things that we were mindful of is not introducing him to two new things in the same week. The easiest way to frame that is if he's going to hit off a tee, that would come one week, but perhaps if he was going to move back in his throwing progression, that happens in a different week. It wouldn't simultaneously happen, and each event is its own level. We're going level to level, so that's why it's hard to put a timeline."
Ohtani will report to the club's Spring Training complex in Tempe, Ariz., ahead of the club's official report date for pitchers and catchers on Feb. 12. He'll continue his rehab under the care of the club's training and medical staff so he has no further followup appointments.
The 24-year-old Ohtani hit .285/.361/.564 with 22 homers, 21 doubles and 61 RBIs in 104 games as a position player in 2018, while also posting a 3.31 ERA with 63 strikeouts, 22 walks and six homers allowed in 51 2/3 innings as a starting pitcher.