Angels manager Phil Nevin announced the decision Sunday on Ohtani, who had been tentatively scheduled to take his semiregular turn in the rotation Thursday in Detroit.
Ohtani instead will take the mound Friday night when the Angels open a weekend series against the Blue Jays, fellow contenders for the American League’s wild-card playoff spots.
The mound start in Toronto will be the last for Ohtani before the Aug. 1 trade deadline. The Angels must decide whether to trade Ohtani or to risk losing him for almost nothing as an unrestricted free agent in the winter.
Nevin said the Angels pushed back Ohtani to give him six days of rest between mound starts, but also to shift the rotation so Ohtani doesn’t have to make his ensuing start on a Wednesday afternoon in Atlanta. Nevin is worried that the heat and humidity in that day game against the Braves could cause a reoccurrence of the finger blister that bothered Ohtani earlier this month but has since healed.
“The humidity, the moisture in your hands, could affect that blister, and that’s the part that I worried about,” Nevin said. “I brought it up to him, and he agreed. It doesn’t change the amount of starts he’s going to have. Basically, it just gives him Toronto instead of Atlanta, and then a couple more games at home. But it takes him off the two day games in a row. I’d prefer that he pitches at night, just for the rest.”
The Angels’ afternoon game in Atlanta is on Aug. 2, the day after the trade deadline. That means Nevin is clearly planning to play the rest of the season with Ohtani on his roster, even if the Angels haven’t definitively said whether they’ll keep the two-way superstar.
Even after winning five of their first eight games on a nine-game homestand that ends Sunday against Pittsburgh, the Angels must make a charge to have any hope of contending for their first playoff berth in Ohtani’s six-year career. Los Angeles began Sunday four games behind Toronto for a wild-card spot, but with three additional teams between the Angels and the Blue Jays.
The series in Toronto is important for both teams in determining a potential head-to-head tiebreaker in the playoff race. The Jays took two of three from the Angels in Anaheim earlier this season.
Ohtani leads the majors in homers (35), OPS (1.065), slugging percentage (.668) and triples (7) at the plate. He is 8-5 with a 3.71 ERA and 148 strikeouts in 19 mound starts, and opponents are batting a major-league-worst .195 against him.