LAKE BUENA VISTA, FLORIDA – Two-way talent Shohei Ohtani can take pitching rehab assignments in the minors without losing his place in the Los Angeles Angels’ major league lineup thanks to a rule change this season, Angels General Manager Billy Eppler said Friday.
Ohtani, the 2018 American League Rookie of the Year, is set to resume pitching this year after Tommy John surgery limited him to designated hitting duties in a shortened 2019 season.
Eppler revealed the rule change, apparently aimed at accommodating one of the game’s brightest young stars, in an interview with MLB Network Radio.
Under previous Major League Baseball rules, the Angels would have been forced to place Ohtani on the injured list, removing him from the batting lineup, in order to send him to pitch in the minors.
“We’ll be able to send Shohei on an actual rehab assignment as a pitcher, and then the very next day, if we so choose, we can use him in a major league game as a hitter,” Eppler said.
The general manager said the Angels must play shorthanded with a 25-man roster on the days when Ohtani is out on assignment, preventing him from pitching in a minor league game and batting in a big league game on the same day.
The Angels will limit Ohtani’s pitching workload and could keep him off the mound until as late as May, according to Eppler.
Ohtani underwent surgery on his right elbow in October 2018. His rehabilitation was interrupted by season-ending knee surgery last September, but he started playing catch outdoors the following month.
The Angels announced his completion of rehabilitation from the elbow surgery last month.
As a designated hitter, Ohtani batted .286 with a major league career-high 62 RBIs over 106 games in his second season in the United States.