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Shohei Ohtani is cleared to pitch in 2020 and the Angels season could depend on him

Mark Townsend
Yahoo Sports Contributor

The Los Angeles Angels starting rotation received a big boost on Wednesday, and that wasn’t just because they signed former Atlanta Braves ace Julio Teheran.

According to Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register, Shohei Ohtani has successfully completed his rehab from 2018 Tommy John surgery. That will put the two-way star on track to return to the Angels rotation in 2020, albeit in a potentially limited role.

The Angels scaled back Ohtani’s pitching duties in his rookie season in part because of his dual role as a designated hitter, but also because an MRI revealed he had a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. He was limited to one pitching appearance per week, while also serving as designated hitter up to four times each week.

A similar schedule seems likely in 2020, according to Fletcher.

Ohtani’s health is a primary concern for the Angels because their season could depend on his effectiveness as a pitcher. As a rookie in 2018, Ohtani went 4-2 with a 3.31 ERA in 51 2/3 innings. That helped stabilize an Angels rotation that finished 18th in MLB with a 4.34 ERA.

Without Ohtani last season, the Angels rotation cratered, finishing 29th in MLB with a 5.64 ERA.

There were numerous issues that contributed to that fall. Nineteen different pitchers made starts for the Angels, with none making more than 18 starts. Finding any consistency is nearly impossible with that many moving parts. Ohtani’s absence created much of that chaos.

Thanks to the signing of Teheran and the acquisition of Dylan Bundy from the Baltimore Orioles, the Angels rotation isn’t as paper-thin as it was when the 2019 season ended. But it still lacks punch overall. Ohtani’s return could provide some of that punch and help eliminate some of the chaos, but it’s also difficult to predict how effective he will be coming off Tommy John surgery.

Scoring runs shouldn't be an issue for Los Angeles. The signing of Anthony Rendon to a seven-year, $245 million contract bolsters a strong core that includes Mike Trout, Justin Upton and Ohtani. But keeping up with teams like the Houston Astros, New York Yankees and Minnesota Twins will require fielding a competitive rotation.

With a healthy and effective Ohtani, that at least seems plausible. It would likely require another significant addition to really solidify the group. Without an effective Ohtani and without another notable addition, the Angels will face another uphill battle.

Shohei Ohtani has been cleared to return to the Angels rotation. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong, file)

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