The Angels don’t yet know whether Ohtani will need surgery to repair the UCL ligament.
Ohtani left the mound in the middle of an at-bat during the second inning Wednesday in a doubleheader opener because of arm fatigue.
Ohtani had a 2-2 count on Cincinnati Reds third baseman Christian Encarnacion-Strand when the Angels’ training staff came out to check on him following a 94 mph fastball. Ohtani headed off the mound after a brief discussion, having thrown just 26 pitches in the first game of a doubleheader.
Ohtani was back in the Angels’ lineup for the nightcap as their designated hitter. The two-way superstar has missed only two games all season, none since May 2.
Ohtani didn’t speak to the media after the game because he was getting further evaluation, but manager Phil Nevin said Ohtani told him that his pitching arm “just didn’t feel right.”
“He told me he didn’t feel any pain,” Nevin said after the Angels’ 9-4 loss. “It was just more of the same thing he’s been feeling for the last couple of weeks.”
Ohtani hit his major league-leading 44th homer in the first inning of the opening game, a two-run shot. He also left that game as the Angels’ designated hitter, with rookie Nolan Shanuel replacing him.
The AL MVP front-runner skipped his previous turn in the rotation last week to rest his arm late in a long summer. Ohtani’s velocity was down across the board Wednesday while he faced the Reds’ first six batters, although he sometimes ramps up his pitching speeds gradually in the opening innings.
Nevin said Ohtani’s velocity was down in the second inning of his start on the mound.
“I was noticing the shapes on his pitches just weren’t the same, and I just saw a look after a pitch, so I decided to go out there and check on him,” Nevin said.
Ohtani has struggled with blisters, cramps and other minor injuries to his pitching hand, but he had pitched through them while continuing to play every day at DH. Ohtani has rarely let pitching injuries stop him from hitting for the Angels, even playing 106 games in 2019 as the Angels’ DH while he was recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Ohtani left the mound early with pain from blisters or a cracked fingernail in three straight starts earlier this summer, although he pitched at least five innings each time. He then left the mound after four scoreless innings against Seattle on Aug. 3 because of cramping in his hand and fingers.
Tyler Anderson replaced Ohtani on the mound, which indicates the Angels might have suspected Ohtani could have a short start. Anderson is a regular part of the Angels’ rotation, and he was tentatively expected to start Friday when Los Angeles opens a road trip against the Mets.
Schanuel took Ohtani’s No. 2 spot in the batting order, and he reached base four times with three walks and an infield single.
Ohtani is almost certain to win his second AL MVP award in three seasons after another standout two-way campaign. He entered this game 10-5 with a 3.17 ERA on the mound. His two-run homer gave him 91 RBIs and broke his tie with Atlanta’s Matt Olson atop the homer standings.