Angels GM says Shohei Ohtani will not be ready for Opening Day following Tommy John surgery
GM Billy Eppler declined to give a firm timetable for Ohtani's return
When the 2019 regular season begins in approximately two months, the Los Angeles Angels will be without slugger-slash-starter Shohei Ohtani. The reigning AL Rookie of the Year is currently rehabbing from Tommy John surgery and, on Thursday, general manager Billy Eppler confirmed Ohtani will not be ready for Opening Day.
"It's clear to us that the timing of his progression will not allow him to be active for opening day," Eppler said. "Anything beyond that, I cannot answer at this time, because it's a multilayered progression that he has to go through. To pinpoint a time is unrealistic."
Ohtani's latest appointment with Dr. Neal El Attrache "went really well," according to Eppler. Ohtani was cleared to begin weight training Friday as the right-hander rebuilds strength on his right side.
Ohtani had his Tommy John surgery on Oct. 1 and the expectation is he will be able to play for the Angels as a designated hitter at some point this coming season. He definitely will not be able to pitch, however. He will report to the team's spring training camp with the rest of their pitchers and catchers in two weeks, though he will be a rehabbing player.
Every rehab is different, though, generally speaking, position players return from Tommy John surgery in 6-9 months. Pitchers require 14-16 months of rehab. Ohtani will be limited to designated hitter because he can't throw. Doctors have reportedly informed the Angels he will be able to swing a bat competitively before he is cleared to pitch.
Last season Ohtani, who is still only 24, defied the odds and became an immediate impact two-way player. He struck out 63 with a 3.31 ERA (126 ERA+) in 10 starts and 51 2/3 innings before his elbow gave out. At the plate, he hit .285/.361/.564 (152 OPS+) with 22 home runs in 364 plate appearances. Only six of the 278 players with at least 300 plate appearances posted a higher OPS+ than Ohtani in 2019.
With Ohtani's return date uncertain, the Angels signed slugging first baseman Justin Bour a few weeks ago to give the offense a boost. Bour is expected to play first base with Albert Pujols, who Eppler said has recovered from August knee surgery, slated to play designated hitter full-time. The team will then shuffle the lineup once Ohtani returns.
The Angels will open the 2019 regular season on March 28 with a four-game road series against the Athletics. After signing several players to one-year contracts this winter (Bour, Cody Allen, Trevor Cahill, Matt Harvey, Jonathan Lucroy, etc.), FanGraphs projects the Halos as the sixth best team in the American League.
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