Ohtani still on track to start for Angels vs. Pirates Friday

ByAlden Gonzalez ESPN logo
Tuesday, July 18, 2023

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Shohei Ohtani, dealing with a troublesome finger during his past three trips to the pitcher's mound, is still on track to make his next scheduled start Friday versus the Pittsburgh Pirates, Los Angeles Angels manager Phil Nevin said prior to Monday's series opener against the New York Yankees.

Ohtani first pitched through a cracked nail in his right middle finger June 27, which developed into a blister when he took the mound July 4. The additional rest afforded by the All-Star break didn't completely solve the issue; Ohtani was still nursing the cracked fingernail and blister while being charged with five runs (four earned) and recording only 15 outs against the Houston Astros on Friday.

Ohtani typically throws his between-starts bullpen sessions the day before his outings, so there's a chance his status could change after the team's Thursday off-day. But Nevin said the blister and cracked fingernail are nowhere near as bad now as they were during Ohtani's July 4 start and that the issue is not made any worse by gripping the bat while he is hitting.

"So far," Nevin said, "Shohei's good."

Ohtani's start comes amid a flurry of rumors about him potentially being traded before the Aug. 1 deadline. The Angels are not believed to have made a firm decision on Ohtani's availability, but every loss makes it seem more likely that team owner Arte Moreno provides the front office with the go-ahead to make a deal before Ohtani ventures into free agency. The Angels began the week having lost 11 of their previous 13 games, setting up the very real possibility that Ohtani's Friday start will be his last at home in an Angels uniform.

"The goal is just to win each day," Nevin, speaking Sunday, said when asked about the pressure to win in order to justify keeping Ohtani. "You can't ignore the talk and what's going on; you hear it every day, I'm asked about it every day. I don't know about him. But I don't think it's an extra incentive like, 'Oh, we got to win to keep Shohei.' Those are things that are out of our control. They're out of my control. Those are front office decisions."

On Monday, batting second as the designated hitter, Ohtani singled, doubled and homered, driving in two runs as the Angels outlasted the Yankees, 4-3, in 10 innings. The homer was his major league-leading 35th of the season.