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OC Register: Left ankle sprain keeps Shohei Ohtani out of Saturday’s lineup, maybe longer


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ANAHEIM – When the 2018 season began, Neil Walker had made 975 starts at second base in his career. Recently the Yankees called up rookie second baseman Gleyber Torres, so they shifted Walker to first base, where he’d started all of eight games prior to this year.

In the fifth inning Friday, Angels designated hitter Shohei Ohtani hit a bat-splintering ground ball between first and second base. Walker’s first instinct was to field the baseball. But Torres was much closer to the ball, nobody was close to first base, and Walker did his best to scramble back. Around the same time he got to first base so did the ball, and so did Ohtani.

Not wanting to collide with Walker, who stood practically upright in the middle of the white canvas bag, Ohtani tried to detour to the outside of the base at the last moment. It was an extraordinary conspiracy of a second baseman’s instincts and a baserunner’s unfortunate timing. Ohtani’s left ankle slipped trying to avoid Walker, and the mild sprain he suffered kept him out of the Angels’ lineup Saturday.

“This is the reality of Major League Baseball: sometimes guys are not going to be available,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “It is what it is.”

Usually those words go without saying. But this was not a typical Saturday at Angel Stadium, and Ohtani’s reality is not that of a typical baseball player.

Fox Sports 1 was carrying Saturday’s game, a national telecast in the U.S. The Japanese network NHK was carrying the game too, a Sunday morning broadcast over in Japan. The game held special interest in his native country, with Ohtani potentially facing a Japanese-born pitcher for the first time in the U.S.

Ohtani’s first at-bat against Masahiro Tanaka will have to wait. Scioscia wasn’t ready to comment on Ohtani’s availability to come off the bench Saturday, to throw his scheduled bullpen session Sunday, to bat on Sunday – another national broadcast, on ESPN – or to pitch Tuesday against the Baltimore Orioles. Even a possible 10-day disabled list stint couldn’t be ruled out.

“At this point we haven’t made any determination but his status is still day-to-day, which means right now we’re not considering the DL,” Scioscia said. “We’ll see how he feels going through the steps.”

Scioscia said Ohtani’s injury wasn’t serious enough to order X-rays or an MRI. That might have been the most encouraging news to come from the manager’s pregame remarks. The Angels have treated Ohtani with the utmost caution in his first month in the big leagues, as a pitcher and as a hitter.

To that end, a possible DL stint begged the question of who the Angels would recall from the minors to take Ohtani’s place: a pitcher or a hitter?

The question drew a good laugh from a crowd of reporters, but not the manager.

“Let’s not talk about any DLs,” Scioscia said.

ALSO

Ohtani was 0 for 11 with six strikeouts, a walk and a hit by pitch against Tanaka in Japan. … Andrelton Simmons was a late lineup scratch with a sore right forearm. … Zack Cozart moved from third base to shortstop. Luis Valbuena started at third base and took Simmons’ spot as the No. 5 hitter in the Angels’ lineup.

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