HOUSTON (AP) — Shohei Ohtani is a two-way player again.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia announced Thursday the Japanese rookie sensation will start for Los Angeles on Sunday night for the first time since spraining the ulnar collateral ligament in his right pitching elbow nearly three months ago.
Ohtani will make his return on national television against the defending World Series champion Houston Astros. Ohtani has thrown up to 50 pitches in the bullpen as he attempts to work back from the UCL injury that many feared might require Tommy John surgery and keep him out of action through the 2019 season. He’ll be on a limited pitch count.
Ohtani was diagnosed following a start on June 6 and has been treated with a platelet-rich plasma injection and an injection of stem cells. He returned to hitting in early July and has 15 home runs and an .897 OPS as a part-time designated hitter. He’s been slowly working back on the mound and could make as many as five starts the rest of the season if the Angels continue to use him once per week, as they were prior to the injury.
Ohtani was excellent over nine starts before getting hurt, going 4-1 with a 3.10 ERA. The Angels want to determine as soon as possible if Ohtani’s UCL will require surgery. If he waits to test the elbow in spring training next year and still needs Tommy John surgery, he would likely miss time during the 2020 season as well.