Angels' Shohei Ohtani on Decreased Velocity: 'I'm Not Worried About Any Injuries'

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVMay 20, 2021

ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA - MAY 19: Shohei Ohtani #17 of the Los Angeles Angels pitches against the Cleveland Indians during the first inning at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on May 19, 2021 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)
Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

Los Angeles Angels two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani, who leads MLB with 14 home runs, said he isn't concerned about a potential injury after his velocity was noticeably reduced during Wednesday's start as a pitcher against Cleveland.

Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com noted Ohtani's fastball velocity was down around 5 mph from his season average and his splitter velocity was decreased closer to 7 mph.

"I'm not worried about any injuries," Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. "I was able to stay in the game and get my at-bats and play the field. I think my body was just feeling really heavy and sluggish."

It was a mediocre statistical performance from the 26-year-old Japanese star, who allowed two earned runs on five hits and two walks with five strikeouts across 4.2 innings.

"He just didn't have it," Angels manager Joe Maddon said. "He just wasn't feeling his fastball. He pitched primarily with sliders, cutters and splitters. It was just one of those days where he didn't have his normal stuff. But despite it, he kept us in the game pretty well."

Ohtani entered the contest with a 2.10 ERA, which rose to 2.37, and he'd struck out at least seven batters in each of his first five starts, including a 10-K outing against the Houston Astros last time out.

The concern is any type of injury that would not only prevent him from taking the mound but also remove his red-hot bat from the lineup. He's posted a .950 OPS with the 14 homers and six steals across 40 games.

"After he had thrown 65-70 pitches, we just wanted a different direction," Maddon said. "We got to take care of this young man. We got to make sure everything works well for the next several years. So for one game in May, I'm not going to jeopardize that by keeping him out there too long."

Ohtani's work at the plate will become even more important with superstar outfielder Mike Trout expected to miss at least six weeks with a calf strain.

The Angels don't have a lot of chances to rest in the coming weeks with Monday's day off being their only one during a stretch from May 14 through June 1. They face the Minnesota Twins in a doubleheader on Thursday.

Neither Ohtani nor Maddon seemed overly concerned about the dip in velocity against Cleveland, but it'll be something to watch closely the next time he takes the mound.