Improving White Sox host Ohtani, Angels
Shohei Ohtani is not finished with his season quite yet.
The Japanese sensation expects to be in uniform with his teammates when the Los Angeles Angels (68-72) open a three-game series against the Chicago White Sox (56-84) on Friday night at Guaranteed Rate Field. Ohtani is no longer an option to pitch after learning this week that he needs Tommy John surgery, but he remains willing and able to contribute at the plate.
Clearly, a damaged elbow ligament has not hindered his ability to swing the bat. Ohtani is coming off a dominant performance in which he went 4-for-4 with two home runs, three RBIs and a stolen base in a 9-3 win over the Texas Rangers.
If Ohtani undergoes surgery, as his team’s physicians recommend, he will likely not pitch again until the 2020 season. But the club remains committed to his future as a two-way star, which is part of what lured him to the Angels as a free agent.
“If you’re going to hit huge home runs and throw 100 miles an hour, it’s a lot for your body to endure,” Angels general manager Billy Eppler said recently to The Athletic. “He trains, he eats and he sleeps like nothing I’ve ever seen before. He’s an extremely gifted athlete and an extremely talented athlete. Is throwing hard good? Yes, it helps you get out hitters. Is throwing hard dangerous? Yes, it stresses ligaments.
“Shohei has demonstrated the ability to be impactful on both sides of the baseball. That is something that we, and I think every team would want impact in both the batter’s box and on the mound. He brings that here. His body does go through more stress than the average player’s, but however, his strength, his biological makeup, has shown that he can endure it.”
As a team, the Angels also have endured plenty. They have lost 12 of their past 18 games and must confront the possibility of their third consecutive losing season under longtime manager Mike Scioscia.
Meanwhile, Chicago is guaranteed a sub-.500 season, but the mood has brightened in recent weeks thanks to improved starting pitching and timely hitting. The White Sox have won eight of 13, 14 of 22 and 19 of 33 as they look toward next year.
Left-hander Carlos Rodon (6-4, 2.89 ERA), who will make his 16th start of the season, has been a big part of the recent success for the White Sox. The 25-year-old is 5-1 with a 2.19 ERA in his last 10 outings.
In four career starts against the Angels, Rodon is 2-2 with a 3.52 ERA. He has walked nine and fanned 25 in 23 innings.
“He’s had situations in which he’s been down over the last couple years and not completed the whole season through injuries or what have you,” White Sox manager Rick Renteria recently said to reporters. “This year, he’s kind of been able to build on what he’s doing right now, he’s feeling confident, and I think it’s something he can run with.”
The Angels will counter with right-hander Felix Pena (1-4, 4.19 ERA), who will make his 14th start. The former Chicago Cubs reliever is coming off a strong outing in which he limited the Houston Astros to two runs (one earned) in seven innings.
In Pena’s only career appearance against the White Sox, he allowed two runs in six innings (3.00 ERA) and took the loss.
Chicago is 28-44 at home this season. Los Angeles is 34-38 on the road.