HOUSTON — Shohei Ohtani is a two-way player again.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia announced Thursday the Japanese rookie sensation will start for Los Angeles on Sunday night for the first time since spraining the ulnar collateral ligament in his right pitching elbow nearly three months ago.
Ohtani will make his return on national television against the defending World Series champion Houston Astros. Ohtani has thrown up to 50 pitches in the bullpen as he attempts to work back from the UCL injury that many feared might require Tommy John surgery and keep him out of action through the 2019 season. He'll be on a limited pitch count.
"We will monitor that very closely," Scioscia said. "We will have a range, but we are going to wait and talk internally to see what he is going to be able to do and see how the game is going."
Ohtani was diagnosed following a start on June 6 and has been treated with a platelet-rich plasma injection and an injection of stem cells. He returned to hitting in early July and has 15 home runs and an .897 OPS as a part-time designated hitter. He's been slowly working back on the mound and could make as many as five starts the rest of the season if the Angels continue to use him once per week, as they were prior to the injury.
"This is going to be fluid," Scioscia said. "This is going to be directed from a lot of input from our medical staff. From how he's evaluated after every outing, we will see the frequency he's going to get out more."
Scioscia added that Ohtani would likely not hit the day before or after pitching, as had been the practice before his injury.
Ohtani was excellent over nine starts before getting hurt, going 4-1 with a 3.10 ERA.
"Very excited," Scioscia said about seeing Ohtani back on the mound, "but obviously, I don't know if we could put those expectations that we had for Shohei when he really hit stride, have those expectations what he's going to come out and do for Sunday. Hopefully, he's going to get back to that."
The Angels want to determine as soon as possible if Ohtani's UCL will require surgery. If he waits to test the elbow in spring training next year and still needs Tommy John surgery, he would likely miss time during the 2020 season as well.