Shohei Ohtani is expected to be back in the Los Angeles Angels’ lineup when they wrap up a three-game series Thursday afternoon in Seattle.
Ohtani, the Angels’ two-way sensation, will serve as the designated hitter for the rest of the season after suffering a forearm strain during his last pitching start Sunday.
Ohtani took batting practice without any issues before Wednesday’s 7-6 loss to the Mariners, but he was held out of the lineup for a second straight day by manager Joe Maddon for precautionary reasons.
“I need to focus on the season right now,” Ohtani said through an interpreter. “The only way for me to contribute is hitting, so I need to focus on that. Once I get to the offseason, I can have my normal throwing program and try to ramp it up.”
Ohtani, coming off Tommy John surgery that kept him off the mound last season, said he remains optimistic about pitching next year.
“It’s not as severe as my Tommy John — it’s just a little inflammation in my elbow,” Ohtani said. “If it comes down to them telling me to just focus on hitting or focus on pitching, I will listen. But, ideally, I would like to leave the window open for me to do both.”
Maddon said he plans on using Ohtani, who is batting .148 with two home runs and seven RBIs in six games, as the team’s regular designated hitter, sitting only against tough left-handers.
“Once he comes back, he’ll play as often as he can,” Maddon said. “Again, he would have played (Wednesday) if we were really comfortable with it, 100 percent. But you’ll see him out there. When he’s right, it’s not going to matter if it’s a right- or left-handed pitcher, and I know that.”
One player who is comfortable is Angels star Mike Trout. After missing four games for the birth of his son, Trout has three home runs in five RBIs in the two games against Seattle. He now has 44 home runs in his career against the Mariners, his most against any opponent.
The Angels will face Mariners right-hander Taijuan Walker (1-1, 4.35 ERA) on Thursday. Walker is coming off a 5-3 victory against Oakland in which he pitched seven scoreless innings of one-hit ball with eight strikeouts and two walks last Friday.
Walker, drafted by the Mariners in the first round in 2010, was traded to Arizona after the 2016 season and returned this spring after three mostly injury-filled years with the Diamondbacks.
“I feel like I was just a two-pitch pitcher last time,” Walker said of his previous stint with Seattle. “Now, having that curveball that I can land for strikes and getting ahead early and then having that slider as my put-away pitch, I feel like it’s definitely a game changer for myself and you know just moving forward in my career.”
Walker is 3-2 with a 5.23 ERA in six career starts against the Angels. In his last appearance against them, on Sept. 13, 2016, Walker pitched a three-hit shutout with 11 strikeouts.
The Angels are scheduled to start right-hander Dylan Bundy (1-1, 2.84). He lost to the Mariners 8-5 on July 30 in Anaheim, Calif., allowing three runs on four hits in six innings, with eight strikeouts and two walks. In his career, he’s 1-2 with a 3.12 ERA in five appearances (three starts) against Seattle.
Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons is eligible to come off the 10-day injured list Thursday, but Maddon said Simmons’ sprained left ankle isn’t ready to go.
–Field Level Media