Los Angeles Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani, who is recovering from elbow and knee surgeries, will not be ready to pitch in the majors until at least mid-May, general manager Billy Eppler told reporters Tuesday.
After having Tommy John surgery in October 2018, Ohtani continued to contribute to the Angels in 2019 as a designated hitter. He then had season-ending surgery last September to address a rare condition in his left knee, which prompted him to shut down his throwing progression for a couple of months.
“The knee surgery pushed back his rehab and his throwing progression to complete the Tommy John rehab protocol,” Eppler told reporters Tuesday. “So we’re targeting about a mid-May return on the mound. He will be able to begin the season as a DH, pending no other unforeseen things happening.”
Ohtani, 25, will be available as a designated hitter on Opening Day, but he will take days away from the big-league team to make rehab pitching starts in the minors.
“I think we will target a handful of those,” Eppler told reporters. “There’s value in him facing guys in a different uniform.”
New manager Joe Maddon is on board with the plans, but he also intends to make decisions by speaking face-to-face with Ohtani.
“I think patience is a key word with all of this,” Maddon said. “I’ve been in development my whole life, so when you’re trying to develop a major league talent like him here, coming off the injury situations that he’s had, it’s important to be very patient, and I am.”
Ohtani has made only 10 major league starts as a pitcher since joining the Angels from Japan — all in 2018, when he was named American League Rookie of the Year. In those starts, he was 4-2 with a 3.31 ERA and 63 strikeouts.
He will continue his throwing program on the side and will participate in spring training games, which start March 22, as a hitter.
Last season as a hitter, he had a .286 batting average with 18 home runs and 62 RBIs.
When Ohtani returns to the rotation, it will be up to Maddon to decide how often to put him on the mound. The Angels used a six-man rotation when Ohtani arrived in 2018.
“I do expect Shohei to pitch once a week to stay on that kind of program,” Eppler told reporters. “We have a lot of off days in April this year and that was part of our calculus when we were walking through this stuff.
“If we have a lot of off days, we can stay with a five-man [rotation]. If we go through a time when our pitchers can use some rest, we can insert somebody.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.