Angels’ Shohei Ohtani searching for ‘feel’ after disastrous return to mound

Shohei Ohtani took the mound for the first time in nearly two years against the Athletics on Sunday. He failed to record a single out in the return.

The Angels’ two-way player, who had Tommy John Surgery in 2018, faced six batters in his 2022 debut pitching performance. He walked three, gave up three singles and was charged with five earned runs.

He threw just 30 pitches in the outing, half of them called as balls.

“He just didn’t throw the ball very well,” Angels manager Joe Maddon told reporters after the game. “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 recorded a 3.31 ERA with 63 strikeouts through 10 starts in 2018 before he tore his ulnar collateral ligament. The injury forced him into DH duty, where his presence at the plate – 22 homers, 61 RBIs and a .925 OPS – allowed him to claim the 2018 AL Rookie of the Year award.

Unable to pitch, Ohtani recorded 18 homers, 62 RBIs and a .848 OPS in 2019.

shohei ohtani angels pitching return injury
Shohei OhtaniGetty Images

After the 18-month recovery, Ohtani averaged just 93 mph on his fastball in his return. He was consistently pushing triple-digits before his injury.

“I just have to get that feel for the game back,” Ohtani told reporters through a translator after the game. “Today I just felt like I was throwing the ball rather than pitching.”

Ohtani pitched in three intra-squad scrimmages before Opening Day, reportedly reaching 97 mph on his fastball. He walked 15 batters in 11 innings, however.

“This guy is as good as we all think he is,” Maddon said. “He’s just not comfortable getting back there yet. 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.”

Source: Newzandar News

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