LAS VEGAS – New Los Angeles Angels manager Brad Ausmus said Wednesday at baseball’s winter meetings that he doesn’t anticipate Shohei Ohtani will be ready for Opening Day next spring. He also said he expects Ohtani’s success to have ripple effects through the game.
I think young athletes, young baseball players are going to say, ‘Hey, why can’t I do that?’ In that respect, I think he’s going to have a huge impact on the youth in baseball.”
Asked whether Albert Pujols’ knee trouble will cause a logjam at designated hitter with Ohtani limited to batting following Tommy John surgery, Ausmus said it wouldn’t be an issue early on.
“We don’t expect Ohtani to be ready when the team breaks, so there’ll be more DH at-bats open to him (Pujols) early in the season,” Ausmus said. “For me, the bigger and more delicate balance is how often he can go to first based on the heath of his knees.”
“We want to protect that elbow so he can pitch in 2020 and beyond. He’s such a dominant pitcher and you want to make sure you preserve that. We’re probably going to rely on the medical team a little more and be a little more cautious. We want him back, because we want his bat in the lineup. But the priority is to make sure that when he comes back we’re not risking him as a pitcher. We’re not sure on the exact date now.”
Ausmus, who was with the Angels early in spring training, took in Ohtani’s first batting practice and said he couldn’t help but be impressed.
“The one thing that stood out was how the ball came off his bat,” Ausmus said. “The only way I can describe it is to say that it’s very similar to Miguel Cabrera. Both guys have tremendous power, and most noticeable they have tremendous power to the opposite field. You just don’t see guys like that. The other thing that is impressive is his speed. That doesn’t get showcased as much because he’s not playing a position as often. He’s one of the faster guys. I don’t know who’s faster, he or Trouty, there both two of the faster guys in the league.”
Because of the various injuries Ohtani has suffered the past two years, the question of whether a two-way player is viable in the majors remains hotly debated. But Ausmus believes the youngster’s success will open minds to alternatives.
“We want to protect that elbow so he can pitch in 2020 and beyond. He’s such a dominant pitcher and you want to make sure you preserve that. “He’s doing things that no one’s done in a long time,” Ausmus said. “…Because of what he’s doing, you’re going to see more two-way players going forward. I think young athletes, young baseball players are going to say, ‘Hey, why can’t I do that?’ In that respect, I think he’s going to have a huge impact on the youth in baseball.”