Tuesday night Los Angeles Angels two-way wunderkind Shohei Ohtani made his long-awaited return to the mound. Ohtani made his season pitching debut April 4 and had been sidelined the past two weeks with a blister on his right middle finger. He was able to hit in the interim and performed well: .309/.345/.655 with four homers in 58 plate appearances.
Ohtani’s return to the mound was a mixed bag. While being held to a strict pitch limit, he struck out seven and allowed one hit in four scoreless innings against the Texas Rangers (GameTracker), and his fastball topped out 97.7 mph. Ohtani also walked six and threw only 37 of his 80 pitches for strikes (46 percent).
“There are no problems, at all, as of now,” Ohtani told reporters, including MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger, earlier this week. “… My blister was pretty big and affected my four-seamer when I was going against the seams. I used to get blisters on the inside part of my fingers from the splitters. But this one wasn’t from the splitter.”
On one hand, Ohtani was pitching for the first time in 16 days, so the lack of control is somewhat understandable. On the other hand, Ohtani walked five batters in 4 2/3 innings in his first start, and eight batters in 1 2/3 innings last year. That’s 19 walks in 10 1/3 innings since returning from Tommy John surgery. His stuff is very good. It’s great, really. The control has been pretty poor though.
At this point the most important thing is Ohtani’s health. He’s had no issues with his elbow since last year’s flexor strain and the blister is no longer preventing him from taking the mound. With any luck, Ohtani will now be able to take a regular turn and settle in, and get his location back to where it needs to be.