LOS ANGELES – Pitcher and designated hitter Shohei Ohtani should bat more often for the Los Angeles Angels when he returns from two major operations, new Angels manager Joe Maddon said.
Maddon, who in 2016 guided the Chicago Cubs to their first World Series title since 1908, spent 31 seasons with the Angels before taking manager jobs in Tampa Bay and Chicago. He inked a three-year deal last October to rejoin the Angels.
Ohtani didn’t pitch last year after undergoing “Tommy John” tendon replacement surgery and had a left knee operation in September that slowed his progress, but the 25-year-old former Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters star is expected to be ready to hit when the season opens in March.
Ohtani has not typically batted on the days before or after he pitches, but Maddon is looking to change that in the 2020 campaign.
“That’s another 50 at-bats a year you’re going to get out of the guy that you wouldn’t get otherwise,” Maddon said in an MLB website posting. “Wouldn’t the fans dig on that?”
Ohtani has batted .286 with 40 home runs and 123 runs batted in over 210 career MLB games as a designated hitter. The right-hander posted a 4-2 record with a 3.31 earned-run average and 63 strikeouts over 51 2/3 innings as a pitcher, all in 2018.
An exact plan for Ohtani is uncertain. Angels general manager Bill Eppler wants more information from the team’s medical staff and trainers before having Ohtani bat as much as five times a week, in addition to a once-a-week pitching performance.
“Don’t treat your guys like China dolls,” said Maddon. “He has gone through some tough moments. He has gone through his rehab and now it’s time to be a baseball player . . . this guy is special.”