Angels manager Joe Maddon confirmed on Tuesday the anticipated news and said that he's "not anticipating" that two-way star Shohei Ohtani will pitch again in 2020. Maddon's remarks come after Ohtani, pursuant to a second poor outing in as many starts this season, was sent for an MRI on his pitching arm and then diagnosed with a grade 1-2 strain of the flexor pronator mass -- a forearm muscle. After his Sunday start against the Astros, Ohtani reported discomfort in his arm. Ohtani just recently returned to the mound after undergoing Tommy John surgery in September 2018.
The Angels announced his diagnosis Monday and at the time added that "a general timetable for beginning a throwing progression following this injury is 4-6 weeks." Given there are just eight weeks left in the 60-game season, Ohtani didn't have much of a window for a return to the rotation. In that sense, Maddon's comments aren't surprising.
Ohtani's status as a designated hitter is day-to-day and he's still with the club. He has not been placed on the injured list.
In his first start of the 2020 season, Ohtani faced six batters and retired zero last Sunday, meaning he had to sit on an infinity ERA for a full week. Sunday's start against Houston didn't go much better. Ohtani followed a quick 1-2-3 first inning with five walks in the second inning. He threw only 25 of his 50 pitches for strikes and has now walked eight of the 16 batters he has faced this season.
Ohtani did throw noticeably harder in his second start. His fastball averaged 92.9 mph and topped out at 94.7 mph first time out. On Sunday he averaged 94.4 mph and topped out at 97.1 mph. In 2018, his first MLB season, Ohtani averaged 97.3 mph and topped out at 101.9 mph with his heater. Sunday was good progress on that front but he's still well short of his norm.
Here is Ohtani's strike zone plot from Sunday. He was squeezed on a 3-2 pitch to Dustin Garneau, otherwise, he was missing well outside the strike zone for easy takes. This wasn't a pitcher who missed just off the plate:
and has now walked eight through two regular season starts. The problem is basic strike-throwing more than precision. He can't get the ball over the plate.
We know Ohtani can pitch -- he threw 51 2/3 innings with 63 strikeouts and a 3.31 ERA in 2018 -- but these arm troubles have been a persistent issue since he made the jump to MLB.