Ohtani’s 44th HR ends start due to arm fatigue

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Shohei Ohtani left the mound in the middle of an at-bat during the second inning Wednesday because of arm fatigue, the Los Angeles Angels said.

Ohtani had a 2-2 count on Cincinnati Reds third baseman Christian Encarnacion-Strand when the Angels’ training staff came out to check on him following a 94 mph fastball. Ohtani headed off the mound after a brief discussion, having thrown just 26 pitches in the first game of a doubleheader, which the Angels would go on to lose 9-4.

Ohtani didn’t speak to the media after the first game because he was getting further evaluation, but manager Phil Nevin said Ohtani told him that his pitching arm “just didn’t feel right.”

“He told me he didn’t feel any pain,” Nevin said. “It was just more of the same thing he’s been feeling for the last couple of weeks.”

Ohtani hit his major league-leading 44th homer in the first inning of the opening game, a two-run shot. He also left that game as the Angels’ designated hitter, with rookie Nolan Schanuel replacing him.

Ohtani was back in the Angels’ lineup for the nightcap at DH, going 1-for-5 with a double and run scored in a 7-3 loss. The two-way superstar has missed only two games all season, none since May 2.

The American League MVP front-runner skipped his previous turn in the rotation last week to rest his arm late in a long summer. Ohtani’s velocity was down across the board Wednesday while he faced the Reds’ first six batters, although he sometimes ramps up his pitching speeds gradually in the opening innings.

“In the second [inning, Ohtani’s velocity] was down,” Nevin said. “I was noticing the shapes on his pitches just weren’t the same, and I just saw a look after a pitch, so I decided to go out there and check on him.”

Ohtani has struggled with blisters, cramps and other minor injuries to his pitching hand, but he had pitched through them while continuing to play every day at DH, including in three straight starts earlier this summer where he pitched at least five innings each game. Ohtani has rarely let pitching injuries stop him from hitting for the Angels, even playing 106 games in 2019 as the Angels’ DH while he was recovering from Tommy John surgery. However, he left the mound after four scoreless innings against Seattle on Aug. 3 because of cramping in his hand and fingers.

Tyler Anderson replaced Ohtani on the mound, which indicates the Angels might have suspected Ohtani could have a short start. Anderson is a regular part of the Angels’ rotation, and he was tentatively expected to start Friday when Los Angeles opens a road trip against the Mets.

Ohtani is almost certain to win his second AL MVP award in three seasons after another standout two-way campaign. He entered this game 10-5 with a 3.17 ERA on the mound. His two-run homer gave him 91 RBIs and broke his tie with Atlanta’s Matt Olson atop the homer standings.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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