It took Shohei Ohtani over 20 months to come back to a significant league hill, and under 20 minutes to leave one.
The Los Angeles Angels’ two-way sensation didn’t record a single out in his 2020 pitching debut Sunday. Rather, he walked three players, surrendered three singles and was accused of five earned runs in a street start against the Oakland Athletics, raising worries about his readiness as a beginning pitcher.
“He just didn’t throw the ball very well,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said after an eventual 6-4 loss at Oakland Coliseum. “I can’t sit here and make excuses for him. I’m not gonna do that. It just wasn’t his day. The fastball wasn’t coming out, there was no deception in his pitches, and hitters will tell you that.”
Ohtani, 26, tossed 30 pitches, half of them balls, and left with two on, none out and a 4-0 deficiency. The right-hander averaged 93 mph on a fastball that can arrive at triple digits and never had the chance to throw his trademark splitter.
Marcus Semien begun with a single, Ramon Laureano, Matt Chapman and Matt Olson each walked, and Mark Canha and Robbie Grossman followed with consecutive singles, provoking Maddon to acquire Matt Andriese.
“It just wasn’t gonna get any better,” Maddon, wary of a young pitcher accumulating too many pitches in one inning, said of relieving Ohtani so soon.
Ohtani, talking through an interpreter, said he isn’t stressed over his speed and that he felt both intellectually and physically prepared to return. Maddon, who is thinking about putting Ohtani in the lineup on Monday since his beginning was so short, said there are no worries about his wellbeing.
“I just have to get that feel for the game back,” Ohtani said. “Today I just felt like I was throwing the ball rather than pitching.”
Ohtani had a 3.10 ERA with 61 strikeouts in 49⅓ innings before tearing his ulnar collateral ligament in 2018, which required a 18-month recovery. He spent the whole 2019 season as an designated hitter, completed his throwing program in December – a procedure postponed by knee surgery – and began confronting restricting players again while baseball was closed down in view of the coronavirus pandemic.
Ohtani contributed three intrasquad scrimmages at Angel Stadium before his 2020 debut. He improved each time, throwing his fastball as high as 97 mph, however he needed order all through, walking a joined 15 batters in a stretch of 11 innings.
Maddon publicly excused concerns, at that point watched Ohtani’s battles mean a game that counts. He said he trusts Ohtani may have some “mental adhesions” to defeat subsequent to enduring such a debilitating injury.
“This guy is as good as we all think he is. He’s just not comfortable getting back there yet,” Maddon said. “When you come off a severe injury, sometimes you have to fight yourself, those mental roadblocks, in order to get back to where you have been.”