Shohei Ohtani's return to the mound lasted five batters Wednesday.
There wasn't much of a debate about removing Ohtani, as he called for the training staff after a pitch and soon left the game.
Shohei Ohtani has left the mound with the trainer and is out of the game pic.twitter.com/Oy5TfVyo6H
— Talkin’ Baseball (@TalkinBaseball_) August 23, 2023
Ohtani had been pitching for the first time in two weeks after missing his previous turn in the rotation due to arm fatigue. Angels manager Phil Nevin emphasized at the time that Ohtani wasn't injured, calling the issue "regular arm fatigue" and promising that Ohtani would be ready for this week's series against the Reds.
Ohtani's pitches were significantly down in velocity during Wednesday's start, with his four-seam fastball averaging 3.8 mph lower than his season numbers, per Baseball Savant.
Curiously, the Angels replaced Ohtani with starting pitcher Tyler Anderson rather than a reliever. Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register surmised that the Angels might've known something was wrong with Ohtani, given that Nevin told reporters before the game that his team's pitching this weekend was undetermined.
Before his exit, Ohtani crushed a 442-foot home run for his 44th of the season, pushing him ahead of Atlanta Braves first baseman Matt Olson for the MLB lead.
Strike out two batters top of the first: ✅
Hit your MLB-leading 44th homer bottom of the first: ✅
Shohei Ohtani is INCREDIBLE. pic.twitter.com/471tCR23SY
— MLB (@MLB) August 23, 2023
At this point, any time lost for Ohtani would be a massive blow for the Angels, though it might already be too late.
The team bet big on making the playoffs with Ohtani in his final season before free agency, buying at the trade deadline by dealing top-100 prospect Edgar Quero and another significant prospect in Ky Bush for Chicago White Sox starting pitcher Lucas Giolito. So far, that bet has gone bust, with the team holding a 5-14 record since the deadline.
The Angels sit at 61-65 and a full 10 games back from the third and final AL wild-card spot. Mike Trout is back as of yesterday, but things are clearly not going well in Anaheim.