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Shohei Ohtani takes hill as uncertain Angels face Rangers

Sportsnaut
Jul 25, 2022; Kansas City, Missouri, USA; Los Angeles Angels designated hitter Shohei Ohtani (17) reacts after hitting a double against the Kansas City Royals during the third inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Shohei Ohtani will be both on the mound and in the batter’s box for the Los Angeles Angels on Thursday against the Texas Rangers in Anaheim, Calif., while Mike Trout remains on the bench with a back and rib cage injury.

The long-term future for both, however, is a bit more difficult to discern.

Both have been the subject of trade talks with the trade deadline looming and the Angels headed nowhere this season. Ohtani will be a free agent after next season while Trout still has eight years and $283.6 million remaining on his contract, so Ohtani would seem more likely to be moved.

The two-way star, however, doesn’t seem fazed by the rumors.

“Honestly, my future, it’s all out of my control (until the trade deadline),” Ohtani said through an interpreter. “It’s up to Perry (Minasian, the team’s general manager). I don’t have much say on that. But as a team, I think we have the talent and the players to win games. We just need some momentum.

“I think it’ll take just one big game to turn that momentum around, and we’re all just waiting for that to happen.”

Trout’s future may be affected by health issues more anything else. Angels trainer Mike Frostad told reporters on Wednesday that Trout has a condition in his back called costovertebral dysfunction at T5, and that he likely will have to manage it long term.

“This is a pretty rare condition that he has in his back,” Frostad said. “We have to take into consideration what he puts himself through with hitting, swinging on a daily basis to get prepared and also playing in the outfield. There are so many things that can aggravate it.

“Long-term, we do have to look at this as something he has to manage not just through the rest of this season but also through the rest of his career probably.”

Trout has not played since July 12 and currently is not participating in baseball activities. He was quick to respond Wednesday to Frostad’s comments, saying, “I’m appreciative of all the prayer requests, but my career is not over. … (My condition) is just rare for a baseball player. I just have to stay on top of it.”

Ohtani, meanwhile, is a candidate to win his second consecutive MVP. He is 9-5 with a 2.80 ERA in 16 starts, with 134 strikeouts and 23 walks in 93 1/3 innings. After going 1-for-3 with an RBI and two walks on Wednesday in Los Angeles’ 4-0 win over the Kansas City Royals, Ohtani has a .257 average, 21 homers, 59 RBIs and an .844 OPS at the plate.

He is 3-1 with a 4.26 ERA in six career starts against Texas.

Right-hander Spencer Howard (1-2, 7.11 ERA) will make his sixth start (eighth appearance) of the season for Texas.

Howard has had an up-and-down season, making the major league club out of spring training before being sent down to Triple-A Round Rock before the end of April.

He pitched well for Round Rock and earned a big-league promotion. Howard made two good starts (three earned runs over 10 innings) in mid-July, only to struggle his last time out in a loss at Oakland (four runs, six hits allowed in 4 2/3 innings).

“When Spencer’s comfortable, he just carries himself a certain way,” Rangers manager Chris Woodward said. “And you can see the life on the pitches, the execution. It’s basically like, ‘Here’s my stuff, hit it.'”

Howard lost his only career start against the Angels, giving up three runs in 2 1/3 innings on Aug. 5, 2021.

The Rangers arrive in Southern California fresh off getting swept in a three-game series at Seattle. The Mariners took the finale 4-2 on Wednesday thanks to a go-ahead three-run homer from Julio Rodriguez in the seventh inning.

“Nobody likes to come in here and get swept,” Woodward said, “and these guys have played really well against us. So we’ll get on that plane, like I say all the time, and we’ve got to worry about Anaheim (on Thursday).”

–Field Level Media