Baseball / MLB

Shohei Ohtani gets green light to pitch again

Kyodo, AP

Rookie right-hander Shohei Ohtani, who has been sidelined as a pitcher for nearly three months with an elbow injury, will start Sunday night against the Houston Astros, Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia announced Thursday.

The 24-year-old admitted he has been cleared to pitch this weekend, saying it’s not just returning to the Angels rotation that’s important but how successful he can be in holding batters in check.

“That’s what the rehab was for,” Ohtani said when asked by reporters how he felt when he was approached by Scioscia.

“I’m looking forward to how perfect my pitching will be. We have one month left (in the regular season) so I’m not going to think about anything other than doing my best until the end.”

Though Ohtani may have to keep his pitch count low in the beginning, he says he is not in a rush to resume his two-way endeavor.

“To be honest I was playing as a hitter so I didn’t have the mental capacity to worry about (my comeback as a pitcher),” he said.

“(My pitch count) will just depend on the progress of the game. I’ve made minor adjustments (to my pitching mechanics) but we’ll just have to see how good or bad I do and take it from there. That’s something I’ll enjoy doing in every game.”

Ohtani, who is 4-1 with a 3.10 ERA in nine starts this season, was activated from the DL on July 3. He has been used exclusively as a hitter since coming off the DL.

In related news, Andrew Heaney threw six scoreless innings, Andrelton Simmons capped a four-run sixth inning with a three-run double and the Angels defeated the Astros 5-2.

Heaney (8-8) scattered five hits with six strikeouts to earn his first road win since Sept. 2, 2015, at Oakland.

Justin Verlander (13-9) allowed three runs and five hits but struck out 11 in 5 innings. Verlander yielded three or more runs for the third straight start.

Tyler White bashed a two-run homer to left field in the ninth as Houston avoided getting shut out.

Designated hitter Ohtani, who batted fifth, went 1-for-3 with a walk and scored a pair of runs. He’s now batting .275.

Also Thursday, Harrison Bader and John Gant hit back-to-back home runs, Gant pitched into the sixth inning and the St. Louis Cardinals downed the visiting Pittsburgh Pirates 5-0.

The Cardinals have won 17 of 21 and took their 10th consecutive series, their longest series winning streak since 2009, when they also won 10 in a row.

In Atlanta, Tommy La Stella delivered the first pinch-hit homer of his career against his former team, carrying the Chicago Cubs to a 5-4 victory over the Braves in a matchup of NL division leaders.