The Los Angeles Angels could activate Shohei Ohtani, the 2018 AL Rookie of the Year from the injured list as early as Tuesday, serving as the team’s DH in 2019.
The wait is almost over, Angelenos. After starting the season on the injured list, the Los Angeles Angels plan to activate Shohei Ohtani very, very soon. In fact, the 2018 American League Rookie of the Year could be activated to the 25-man roster as early as Tuesday, according to Angels’ general manager Billy Eppler.
The Halos’ Twitter account revealed Ohtani has traveled to Detroit to meet up with the team, and it is believed the Japanese two-way phenom will make his 2019 debut at some point during the Angels’ three-game series against the Tigers. Ohtani underwent Tommy John surgery to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament the week following the end of the ’18 regular season, expected to require 6-9 months of recovery before making a return to the field.
24-year old Ohtani has been taking batting practice with Anaheim for the past several weeks and it appears he’s healthy enough to return to his offensive role as the Angels’ designated hitter. He tore the cover off of the baseball a season ago to the tune of a .285/.361/.564 batting line with 22 homers and 61 RBI in 326 at-bats.
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The reigning ROY of the junior circuit will only be making a return at the plate for the time being, however. An optimistic Tommy John surgery recovery time for pitchers is 12 months at the earliest, and the Halos have already made it clear that Ohtani will not be on the mound at any point in 2019.
The fireballer was equally impressive with his arm as he was with his bat as a rookie, going 4-2 with a 3.31 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, and 11.0 K/9 in 51 2/3 innings across 10 starts. The Angels certainly wish Ohtani could return as a two-way player again this year, but his presence in the batting order will be impactful enough.
Shohei had a spectacular 1.042 OPS in the final two months of his 2018 campaign amidst dealing with a torn UCL, and he’ll surely alleviate some of the load Mike Trout has had to carry at the plate through the team’s first month and a bit of action.
It will be interesting to see how the Los Angeles Angels will go about allocating at-bats for the remaining infielders upon Ohtani’s return to the lineup, especially pertaining to the club’s 1B/DH types. Albert Pujols‘ decline continues, batting a measly .224 with 5 home runs and 17 RBI (one away from hitting the 2000 RBI milestone), while free agent acquisition Justin Bour has been even worse with a .169 average and -0.3 WAR on the season. They could become a platoon at first base, as the latter has fared better against righties while the future HOFer has had more success against southpaws so far.
The return of Shohei Ohtani to the Los Angeles Angels may cause manager Brad Ausmus to juggle around playing time for inferior players but it is for the better as Ohtani’s bat will be welcoming to the Halos, who hope he can aid in jumpstarting the offense and turn the team’s fortunes around.