Thursday, September 6, 2018

Contemplating Shohei Ohtani

Shohei Ohtani, the two-way sensation for the Los Angeles Angels, made his return to the mound on ESPN's Sunday night game. He showed his customary velocity in the first inning. He did not have that same velocity in the second and was pulled.

The Angels initially downplayed the loss of velocity, but on Wednesday afternoon the club announced that the Japanese right-hander had further damaged his right elbow. Tommy John surgery is recommended.

On Wednesday night, after the diagnosis, Ohtani was the designated hitter for the Angels -- and hit a pair of home runs.

This is a remarkable athlete, and a complex situation. A few facts and assertions:

  • Ohtani wants to both hit and pitch, and would not have signed with the Angels without a pledge that he would be allowed to do both.
  • He is probably more valuable to the Angels as a pitcher; they, like most teams, lack a true ace starter, and they have a lot of money invested in Albert Pujols as the designated hitter.
  • The split role dampens Ohtani's value to the team. Even when healthy, he made no more than one start a week, and he didn't hit on the days before and after his starts. He's a part-time hitter and a spot starter.
  • The Angels handled him carefully, and he still got hurt.
Presumably he will have the ligament replacement, and presumably sooner rather than later. Given what we've seen from other position players who've had the surgery, he can return to hitting for the Angels sooner than he can return as a pitcher.

But again, dividing his time, his attention and his rehab between the dual roles is a complicating factor. He is a unique case.

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