Shohei Ohtani to start Game 1 of Angels' DH Thursday

Los Angeles Angels superstar Shohei Ohtani, the subject of trade speculation with the deadline looming Tuesday, will start Game 1 of Thursday's doubleheader against the Detroit Tigers, rather than Friday against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Thursday's start is expected to be Ohtani's last before the trade deadline.

Last weekend, the Angels announced they were pushing Ohtani back to Friday in Toronto to avoid having him pitch two straight games in hot, humid weather in Detroit and Atlanta.

But once Wednesday's rainout turned into Thursday's doubleheader, Angels manager Phil Nevin said the club wanted to avoid having Ohtani hitting in two games and then travel the night before pitching in Toronto.

"The first reaction is it's the Blue Jays and we want you to pitch against Toronto, but all these games are important," Nevin told reporters Wednesday. "We need the best Shohei Ohtani we can get and we just felt this was it.

"Sitting down with him, he knows his body better than anybody. Takes better care of himself than anybody. Just walking through it, we felt like he would be the freshest to pitch [Thursday's] game vs. Friday's game."

Ohtani, 29, who is 8-5 with a 3.71 ERA in 19 starts this season, has recently dealt with a cracked nail and a blister, but said neither was an issue in his most recent outing. On Friday, he allowed five runs in 6 1/3 innings in a win over the Pittsburgh Pirates. He has a 7.71 ERA in three July starts.

Ohtani leads the major leagues with 36 homers and is also hitting .300 with 77 RBIs this season.