The latest news on Shohei Ohtani’s rehab from Tommy John surgery is mixed with some bad news, but mostly very good news. The bad news is that Ohtani will not be ready by Opening Day.
Despite him not being able to pitch until 2020, he’s expected to be the Angels designated hitter for most of 2019. When that happens is uncertain up to this point since pitchers and catchers will report to Angels camp on February 13, but Ohtani isn’t ready to throw just yet.
“It’s clear to us that the timing of his progression will not allow him to be active for Opening Day,” Angels GM Billy Eppler said. “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.”
On the other hand, the good news outweighs the bad. Ohtani’s latest appointment with Dr. Neal El Attrache “went really well,” according to Eppler. Ohtani was cleared to begin weight training Friday as the right-hander rebuilds strength on his right side. Dr. El Attrache was pleased with his elbow range of motion, his strength, and his scar ability.
According to the Associated Press, Ohtani had already begun lower-body conditioning, Eppler said. When his upper-body strength returns to an acceptable level, which typically occurs after a few weeks of weight training, he will be cleared to take dry swings. To put it simply, Ohtani’s progressing nicely from his Tommy John surgery that he had on October 1. By that point, if he continues to progress the way he has been, he’ll start swinging a bat in late February or early March.
The Angels will learn more each week about how quickly Ohtani is recovering. Eppler said they’ll be cautious with him because of his unique circumstances – rehabbing from Tommy John surgery as a pitcher while also trying to be a hitter. Eppler said Ohtani won’t add more than one new element to his rehab each week. For example, if Ohtani makes a change in his hitting regimen, he won’t add to his throwing program in the same week.
The Halos need Ohtani for two reasons. First and most obvious, he’s an offensive threat. He hit .285 last season with 22 home runs and 61 runs batted in in only 367 plate appearances. He also had a .361 on base percentage, which is exactly what Eppler likes. He has pop but will get on base any way he can to help his teammates out.
Secondly, if Ohtani is on the disabled list for an extended amount of time, this forces Albert Pujols to stay in the lineup every day even if his body tells him not to. Since Pujols is a competitor, it’s possible that he says that he feels good even though his feet or one of his knees might be sore as the season progresses. If Ohtani is in the lineup, Pujols can split time at first base between himself and Bour and get days off here and there.
The Halos can only hope that 2019 will finally be a year that most of their players, especially their starting pitchers can stay healthy. And if their 2018 Rookie of the Year winner comes back healthy and is able to contribute with the bat, that will at least keep the Angels a competitive ball club throughout the season
Featured Image: Shohei Ohtani/Sporting News Photo