Ohtani scratched from start but homers as DH

MLB

The Los Angeles Angels scratched Shohei Ohtani from his scheduled start against the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday, one day after he took a fastball to his right elbow while hitting.

But the two-way star went 2-for-4 as the Angels’ designated hitter, highlighted by his 427-foot, two-run shot over the ficus trees behind the center-field fence. The Angels lost 7-3.

Veteran lefty Jose Quintana started in place of Ohtani, yielding five runs and six hits with nine strikeouts for the Angels while failing to get out of the fourth inning in another poor start. The veteran has lasted just 17 combined innings in five starts for his new team, giving up 20 earned runs.

Ohtani’s ailment is not considered serious, and he is expected to pitch again before the end of the week.

Manager Joe Maddon said Ohtani’s pitching elbow, which is protected by a guard when he hits, is “sore, but it’s not too sore to swing a bat.”

“It would be challenging to go out there and throw 90 to 100 pitches at 95 to 100 mph,” Maddon added, “so we just wanted to give it a day or two to relax, and then we’ll make another reevaluation.”

Ohtani could start near the end of the Angels’ four-game series against the Rays or be held back for the weekend series against the crosstown-rival Los Angeles Dodgers.

Ohtani took a 93 mph fastball to the top portion of his elbow guard from Seattle Mariners left-hander Justus Sheffield in Sunday’s first inning, but he remained in the game and proceeded to steal second and third base — giving him six stolen bases on the year.

Ohtani, 26, began the week with a .917 OPS in 106 plate appearances and a 3.29 ERA in 13 2/3 innings. But he has made only three starts through the season’s first four-and-a-half weeks and has not come close to operating under a starting pitcher’s traditional five-day schedule.

Maddon noted that the circumstance could ultimately prove beneficial, given the concern for Ohtani’s workload in what could be his first full season of pitching since 2016.

The setback — a relatively minor one — has not made Maddon second-guess his desire to let Ohtani hit the day before his starts.

“Not at all,” Maddon said, “because he could’ve been hit two days before and still not been able to pitch. I’m not going to keep taking different days away from him just because of a freak accident. I’m not normally knee-jerk with all my stuff. That’s just part of the game. How ’bout that he stole two bases after that? How ’bout his at-bats after that? That’s a growth moment for him. ‘You hit me in the elbow, I’m gonna steal two bases.’ I could not have loved that moment any more than I did yesterday.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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