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OC Register: Shohei Ohtani returns to Angels lineup, but they still lose to Mariners

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SEATTLE — The Angels celebrated the return of Shohei Ohtani to their lineup on Tuesday night.

But that was all they celebrated.

Ohtani went hitless in four trips to the plate in his first game in about a month, doing nothing to help an Angels offense that was flummoxed by Wade LeBlanc in a 4-1 loss to the Seattle Mariners.

By managing only an Andrelton Simmons homer in seven innings against the soft-throwing LeBlanc, the Angels lost the first of nine games they will play against the Mariners in July. They now trail the Mariners by a dozen games in the race for the second American League wild card.

Injuries have led to the Angels plummeting in the standings – and they suffered another one when fourth outfielder Chris Young left the game with a left hamstring strain – but at least they got back one of their key players when Ohtani was activated.

Ohtani had been out with a damaged ulnar collateral ligament that still prevents him from pitching, but he can hit.

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“Prior to this injury, he was a really good hitter,” Simmons said. “He did really well with a limited amount of at-bats. He was still a big asset for us. Hopefully, he can come back and get his rhythm quick and help us out.”

Ohtani was hitting .289 with six homers and a .907 OPS when he went on the disabled list.

Ohtani returned to the lineup just five days after he was cleared by doctors to resume hitting. He had two days of regular batting practice, and then 20 at-bats in two days worth of simulated games.

In his first game back, though, he struck out looking twice, and he hit a flyout against LeBlanc. In the ninth, he struck out against Seattle closer Edwin Diaz.

Simply getting Ohtani back begs a couple more questions.

First, how often is he going to be in the lineup? When he was splitting his time between hitting and pitching, he was the DH three or four times a week. That left about three days a week that Albert Pujols could get off his feet and move back to designated hitter. Now Ohtani would presumably be available to play almost every day, but Pujols, 38, might not be able to move to first base that often.

“We’ll balance it,” Manager Mike Scioscia said, without elaborating.

Also, is Ohtani going to be able to pitch?

So far his ligament has had almost four weeks of healing from the platelet-rich plasma injection and stem-cell therapy. He’ll be evaluated again in about two weeks, but the history of players who have had PRP or stem-cell treatments is that it takes months to be able to throw again.

Without Ohtani pitching, it’s important for the Angels to get quality work out of starters like Andrew Heaney, whose rough first inning proved too much to overcome on Tuesday.

He gave up a one-out double to Jean Segura, then back-to-back walks to Mitch Haniger and Nelson Cruz. Two runs scored on Kyle Seager’s double – the play on which Young was hurt – and a third scored after a wild pitch on the third strike to Ryon Healy.

After that, though Heaney settled down and did not allow another run through his seven innings, but the Angels’ offense couldn’t make up the early deficit.

More to come on this story.

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