Los Angeles Angels star Shohei Ohtani has completed his throwing program, the final step in his rehabilitation from Tommy John surgery, and was cleared to return to his native Japan, where he will rest and recover for his anticipated return to a two-way role in 2020.
Ohtani spent the 2019 season as a designated hitter, rehabilitating from surgery to reconstruct the ulnar collateral ligament in his right (throwing) elbow in October 2018. He had been throwing off a mound for more than two months before having to undergo season-ending surgery to address a rare knee condition around the middle of September, which prompted him to shut down his throwing progression for a couple of months.
The Angels did not disclose how often Ohtani threw off the mound when he restarted his throwing program. They are still working to define a blueprint for building him back up as a starter for the 2020 season.
The assumption is that Ohtani, 25, will start once a week rather than every five games, which would prompt the occasional need for a sixth starter. An innings limit might be implemented. Ohtani can DH on the days he doesn't start, though new manager Joe Maddon floated the possibility during the winter meetings of Ohtani also hitting on his start days.
Ohtani currently makes up one-fifth of an Angels rotation that also includes Andrew Heaney, Griffin Canning and the recently added Dylan Bundy and Julio Teheran. Ohtani's recovery, combined with Heaney's injury history and Canning's youth, motivated the Angels to add durable starters in Bundy and Teheran, with the latter agreeing Thursday on a one-year, $9 million contract.
The Angels still have the financial flexibility to add a top-tier free-agent starter such as Hyun-Jin Ryu or Dallas Keuchel, though they also have a hole at catcher.