DETROIT (AP) — Shohei Ohtani returned from Tommy John surgery and took a called third strike from Detroit’s Daniel Norris in his first plate appearance this season.
The Los Angeles Angels activated the AL Rookie of the Year from the injured list before Tuesday night’s game at Detroit and he was in the lineup batting third as the designated hitter.
“Baseball is certainly not the type of sports that you focus on one night,” Angels manager Brad Ausmus said. “We’re looking at using him as a DH for the vast majority of the next 4½ months. I’m not overly concerned about the immediate results, but just the long-term results.”
The 24-year-old Ohtani is not expected to pitch this year as he recovers from Tommy John surgery on Oct. 1, but the Angels projected the two-way star would be able to bat in major league games at some point in May.
“He injects some offense, for sure,” Ausmus said. “He’s got big power.”
Ohtani hit .285 with 22 homers and 61 RBIs in 367 plate appearances last year. He became the first player since Babe Ruth with at least 10 homers and four pitching wins in the same season. As a DH, Ohtani became the first player with 15 homers as a batter and 50 strikeouts as a pitcher in the same season.
He was 4-2 with a 3.31 ERA and 63 strikeouts over 51 2/3 innings in 10 starts, limited by a torn right elbow ligament that required surgery. Ohtani has said he has “no regrets” about last year when he hit for the Angels until season’s end and delaying reconstructive surgery and his ability to pitch again until 2020.
Before the series opener against the Tigers, the Angels also activated right-hander Cody Allen and infielder Zack Cozart from the injured list. They designated outfielder Peter Bourjos and right-hander Chris Stratton for assignment and optioned infielder Luis Rengifo to Triple-A Salt Lake.