While Shohei Ohtani the hitter is all systems go for the Angels this season, Shohei Ohtani the pitcher is still working his way back from Tommy John surgery performed in the fall of 2018. Because the start of the 2020 regular season has been delayed roughly four months, Ohtani should be ready, at least in terms of elbow health. Rediscovering pre-surgery effectiveness right away, however, is another challenge.
Pitchers coming back from Tommy John often struggle early with command and control, and that was certainly the case for Ohtani, who on Tuesday returned to the Angel Stadium mound for the first time in about two years. As the Associated Press notes, Ohtani in a Tuesday intrasquad game walked eight batters on only about 50 pitches. Those are obviously not optimal results, but, again, such struggles aren't surprising given the surgery and long layoff -- Ohtani has not seen regular season action on the mound since early September of 2018.
As such, Ohtani didn't sound too worried afterward:
"I was able to throw all my pitches today, so I'm just going to try to build on that," Ohtani said through an interpreter. "Obviously, it felt a lot different from my bullpens, especially because I was unfamiliar with pitching to my teammates. That kind of threw me off a little bit."
Don't be surprised if he gradually has more success locating the ball during subsequent summer camp appearances.
For now, Ohtani is penciled in as the Angels' fifth starter, and the plan is to have him take the mound once per week or so. Otherwise, he'll serve as the Angels' primary DH. At the plate, the 26-year-old Ohtani has put up strong numbers across parts of two seasons. We now know he was playing with a bum elbow for much of that time, so he may not yet have reached his ceiling as a hitter.