CHICAGO — Shohei Ohtani might have thrown his last pitch of the 2021 season.
The Angels on Thursday scratched Ohtani from the start he was “penciled” in to make Friday because he felt some soreness playing catch Wednesday.
Manager Joe Maddon said Ohtani is just feeling “soreness, from a long year. That would be my guess. There’s been no plans for him to see any kind of a doctor.”
Maddon said he nonetheless brought up the subject of shutting Ohtani down as a pitcher for the final two weeks of the season, but they aren’t ready to make that call just yet.
“That’ll be something that we’ll talk about as he starts to feel better,” Maddon said. “And then we’ll take it from there. I think he’s got nine wins. And on a personal level, he probably is thinking about 10. Ten always looks better than nine. But we can’t let that be the driving factor.
“So we’ll just wait and see how he feels. Today’s Thursday. So I don’t even know the next day he’s scheduled to play catch. I’ll ask (pitching coach Matt Wise), but if it’s just like, he feels great, adamantly ‘I feel great,’ I see nothing wrong with (him pitching again).
“But if there’s any kind of lingering soreness, you may see him not pitch. I just don’t know that answer yet.”
Wise said he was “not terribly concerned” about Ohtani’s health, and that fatigue is to be expected, considering all he’s done.
“No one else is doing what he’s doing physically, hitting and pitching, all that stuff,” Wise said. “We have to be very, very aware. A lot of guys will have aches and pains. We are doing our best to protect the guys.”
Ohtani, who is the favorite for the MVP award based on his once-in-a-lifetime success as a two-way player, has thrown 115 1/3 innings this season, after throwing just 52 1/3 in his previous three big-league seasons combined. He threw just 1 2/3 of those innings in 2020 after undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2018.
His previous full season as a pitcher was in 2016 in Japan, because an injury also limited him to 26 1/3 innings in 2017 in Japan.
Ohtani is 9-2 with a 3.36 ERA, and 10.6 strikeouts per nine innings, having emerged as the Angels’ best pitcher this season.
In 2018, the Angels gave Ohtani frequent days off – before and after he pitched, and he didn’t hit the day he pitched – when he was a two-way player. This year, however, in consultation with Ohtani about what he felt he could handle, they essentially abandoned all of that. He played practically every day, including hitting on the days he was pitching.
Although the workload never led to an injury, there has been a question as to whether the fatigue has impacted his performance.
While his numbers on the mound have been even better in the second half, at the plate he’s been in a steady slump, which hitting coach Jeremy Reed suggested last week was at least partly because of fatigue.
Ohtani was still in the lineup at DH on Thursday afternoon, after going hitless in nine at-bats with five strikeouts in the first two games of the series against the Chicago White Sox. He was hitting .138 with a .620 OPS over his previous 17 games. For the season, he still has a .956 OPS (fifth in the majors) and 44 homers (third in the majors).
Still, Maddon conceded that Ohtani could perhaps use a break at the plate too.
“I’ve actually I broached the subject with him and he felt he’s still good and he still wants to get after it,” Maddon said. “We’ll look at it. If he needs it, he’s gonna get it. Absolutely.”
The Angels designated right-hander Jake Petricka for assignment to create a roster spot for Alex Cobb, who was activated from the injured list to start Thursday. Cobb had been out since July with a wrist injury. …
The Angels are expected to activate right-hander José Marte on Friday. Marte had been on the COVID-related injured list, which means he was also not on the 40-man roster. The Petricka move clears a 40-man spot for Marte, but the Angels will need to make another move to create a spot on the 28-man active roster. …
Right-hander Austin Warren, who is also on the COVID-related injured list, is expected to be activated Monday, Maddon said.
Angels (TBD) vs. A’s (LHP Cole Irvin, 9-13, 4.04), 6:38 p.m. Friday, Bally Sports West, 830 AM