Shohei Ohtani’s Next Mound Start for Angels Moved Back a Day to Key Toronto Series

AP Photo/Ashley Landis
Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani (17) stands on the mound during the third inning of a baseball game against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Anaheim, Calif., Friday, July 21, 2023.

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Shohei Ohtani’s next scheduled mound start for the Los Angeles Angels has been pushed back one day to Friday in Toronto.

Angels manager Phil Nevin announced the decision Sunday on Ohtani, who had been tentatively scheduled to take his semiregular turn in the rotation on Thursday in Detroit.

Ohtani instead will take the mound Friday night when the Angels open a weekend series against the Blue Jays, a fellow contender for the AL’s wild-card playoff spots.

The mound start in Toronto will be the last for Ohtani before the 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 their 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.