Detroit – Shohei Ohtani, who has missed all of the 2019 season while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, appears to be ready to play.
Ohtani will join the Angels in Detroit on Tuesday, at which point he will be evaluated to determine if he’s ready to play, Angels general manager Billy Eppler said Monday.
The Tigers and Angels play three games at Comerica Park starting Tuesday. Left-hander Daniel Norris is the Tigers’ scheduled starter for the series opener.
Although the Angels stopped short of saying that they will definitely activate Ohtani, it would be a surprise if they sent him to Detroit without being fairly certain he was ready to go. Ohtani had more than 50 plate appearances against minor league pitchers in simulated games over the past couple weeks, approximating spring training.
As his return seemed imminent in recent days, the Angels talked eagerly about what he could mean when he rejoins the middle of their lineup.
“He was the Rookie of the Year,” Kole Calhoun said Sunday before the Angels played in Monterrey, Mexico. “We all got to see what he’s capable of last year and now he’s got a year of experience under his belt. He’s somebody that can definitely help this ball club. We’re definitely excited to get a player like Ohtani back.”
Ohtani, 24, won the award after debuting as a two-way player in the majors in 2018. He was only able to pitch 10 games, posting a 3.31 ERA, because of an elbow injury that would ultimately require surgery at the end of the season.
While the injury prevents him from pitching until 2020, the Angels will soon have his bat back for the rest of the season. Last year he hit .285 with 22 homers and a .925 OPS in 367 plate appearances.
Ohtani could approach 500 plate appearances over the rest of the season if he serves as the everyday designated hitter, with only occasional days off, as Manager Brad Ausmus has suggested.
Later in the season, as he continues to advance in his throwing progression, the Angels may choose to give him a few more days off to work around the heavier throwing workouts.
Eppler said on Sunday that Ohtani has been instructed on how to slide without putting his arm at risk. He will wear a protective elbow guard when he bats and a different one when he is on the bases.
On deck: Angels
Series: Three-game series at Comerica Park
First pitch: Tuesday-Wednesday – 7:10 p.m.; Thursday – 1:10 p.m.
TV/radio: Tuesday-Thursday -- FSD/97.1 FM
Probables: Tuesday – RHP Griffin Canning (0-0, 6.23) vs. LHP Daniel Norris (1-0, 3.47); Wednesday – LHP Tyler Skaggs (3-2, 3.12) vs. LHP Matthew Boyd (3-2, 3.05); Thursday – TBA vs. RHP Tyson Ross (1-4, 5.34).
Canning, Angels: A second-round pick out of UCLA in 2017, he made his big-league debut against the Blue Jays last week and impressed with a 95-mph four-seam fastball that he liked to use up in the zone – something that could play well against the Tigers.
Norris, Tigers: This will be his fourth start, and he’s gotten progressive better in each of the last three. He limited a good Phillies lineup to a run and five hits over five innings in his last start. His average velocity on his fastball is 90 mph, and opponents are hitting .353 with four home runs off it. But, he’s also got 10 strikeouts with it.