The reigning American League Rookie of the Year is expected to be a designated hitter for the Los Angeles Angels next season after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow last October, but he will not be ready in time for opening day.
According to Greg Beacham of the Associated Press, Shohei Ohtani will not be ready in time for an opening day start despite being “medically cleared to resume full strength training on his right arm.” Ohtani is not expected to take the mound for the Los Angeles Angels next season, but he is expected to serve as the primary designated hitter.
Although it is clear that Ohtani will not be ready in time for opening day, the timetable is not clear for when he is expected to appear in his first game next season. Nonetheless, the two-way star will be present in Tempe, Arizona when pitchers and catchers report to spring training later this month on February 13th.
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Within the article, Angels general manager Billy Eppler stated: “It’s clear to us that the timing of his progression will not allow him to be active for opening day. Anything beyond that, I cannot answer at this time, because it’s a multilayered progression that he has to go through. To pinpoint a time is unrealistic. He’ll be doing what he’s been medically cleared to do.”
As he proved last season with a 3.31 ERA, a 3.57 FIP, and a 1.161 WHIP through 10 starts on the mound alongside a .285/.361/.564 slash-line through 367 plate appearances, Ohtani is an extremely valuable pitcher and hitter. Due to this, even though the Angels will miss his presence in the lineup at the beginning of the season, it is in the best interests of the organization to be patient with his recovery.
Out of the first 17 series for the Los Angeles Angels next season, seven will be against teams that finished above .500 last season and ten will be against teams that finished below .500 last season. If Ohtani is able to return at some point during or directly after this 53 game stretch, it would give the team a significant boost to handle a following stretch of 16 series in which the Angels will face 13 teams that finished above .500 last season.