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OC Register: Angels’ Shohei Ohtani set to pitch Sunday for the 1st time in nearly 2 years

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OAKLAND — The long wait is almost over.

When Shohei Ohtani starts Sunday against the Oakland A’s, it will mark his return to a major-league mound for the first time in 693 days.

Since Sept. 2, 2018, when Ohtani made a short-lived attempt to pitch with a damaged elbow that would require Tommy John surgery a month later, Ohtani has only been a hitter in the big leagues.

Prior to that September game, Ohtani’s previous start was June 6, 2018, so it’s been more than two years since he was a fully functional two-way player.

Asked to describe his emotions on the eve of his return, Ohtani said through his interpreter that he was feeling “a mix of everything. Some worry. Some excitement. There will be no fans, so that’s going to be weird too.”

At least there will be another team and it will be a game that counts. Ohtani’s first spring training in the majors demonstrated that he has trouble performing when nothing is on the line, and the intrasquad games of summer camp weren’t much better. He nonetheless got his velocity up to 97 mph, according to General Manager Billy Eppler.

Now, Ohtani will be pitching in a competitive game on the same mound when he made his big-league pitching debut. On that day in 2018, Ohtani gave up three runs in six innings.

“At that time,I just wanted to give everything I got and see how my stuff fared against the big-leaguers,” Ohtani said. “But now I’m more focused on to see how much I got back to where I was before surgery.”

Ohtani faced the A’s a week later in Anaheim and pitched the best game of his young career, allowing one hit over seven shutout innings, with 12 strikeouts.

It was on that day the world saw that Ohtani was not just a gimmick, but had a chance to be an above-average major-league hitter and pitcher. No one has done that since Babe Ruth.

“I love watching this guy play baseball, watching him on the mound and in the batter’s box,” Eppler said. “So I’m excited.”

Eppler added that he learned even more about Ohtani by watching the way he went about his work while rehabbing.

“Shohei is a baseball addict,” Eppler said. “There’s probably not a better way to describe that. He approaches whatever it is, whether it’s his training or his throwing progressions or his hitting progressions, with a lot of focus and concentration and seriousness. He just enjoys doing it. His passion is clear to me.”

Manager Joe Maddon said Ohtani won’t be on a strict pitch count for Sunday’s start, although it’s worth noting that his longest outing in intrasquad games was five innings and about 75 pitches.

“Well just read the game as it’s going along,” Maddon said. “He’s stretched out pretty well.”


Anthony Rendon, who has now missed the Angels’ first two games, on Saturday did a pregame workout on the field that included throwing, ground balls and hitting in the cage.

Before the workout, Maddon sounded positive about getting Rendon back soon.

“I’m very encouraged,” Maddon said. “He’s feeling better. After this little workout he’s going to do, we’ll have a better indicator of where we’re at specifically, but he’s definitely making progress.”


The Angels started Michael Hermosillo and Taylor Ward at left and right field, respectively, on Saturday, with regular left fielder Justin Upton at DH and right fielder Brian Goodwin on the bench.

Maddon said the decision was partly to get an extra right-handed bat in the lineup instead of the left-handed hitting Goodwin against lefty Sean Manaea. Also, he doesn’t want his young players to sit too long.

“You can’t ask a Hermosillo or a Ward to play well if you don’t give them a chance to get at-bats when they actually need them,” Maddon said. “Young guys like this, you can just not let them rot on the bench. Plus I like them. I like what they look like against this pitcher.”

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