Ohtani to start Sunday for Angels vs. Astros

HOUSTON — Instead of playing coy, which some predicted would be his course of action, Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia did not hesitate in announcing that rookie right-hander Shohei Ohtani would return to the mound for the first time in nearly three months on Sunday.

Ohtani (4-1, 3.10 ERA) last pitched for the Angels on June 6 against the Kansas City Royals, working four innings before being sidelined with a grade 2 UCL sprain. The two-way Rookie of the Year candidate returned as a hitter on July 3 and produced a slash line of .261/.333/.555 with nine home runs and 23 RBIs over 44 games entering the four-game series with the Astros.

Ohtani underwent injections of platelet-rich plasma and stem cells in his elbow on June 7.

“We’ll obviously monitor that very closely and we’ll have a range, but we’re going to wait and talk internally just to see what he’s going to be able to do and how the game’s going,” Scioscia said of a pitch count for Ohtani. “Naturally there’ll be a range that we’ll want to stay in.

“This is going to be fluid. This is going to be directed from a lot of input from our medical staff, from how he’s evaluated after every outing, and we’ll see the frequency that he’s going to get out there.”

Rookie right-hander Jaime Barria (8-9, 3.67 ERA) will start the second game of the series for the Angels (65-69). It will mark his 21st start on the season and 10th on the road. Barria was charged with the loss on Aug 25 against the Astros after allowing four earned runs and five hits over three innings, his second-shortest start of 2018. In two starts against Houston this season, Barria is 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA. He will make his first career appearance at Minute Maid Park.

Left-hander Framber Valdez (2-0, 0.96 ERA) will make his second career start and third appearance for the Astros (82-52) on Friday. Valdez allowed one run on two hits and three walks with three strikeouts over five innings against the Angels on Aug. 26 in a 3-1 victory. He made his major league debut five days earlier in relief against the Seattle Mariners, earning the victory after surrendering one unearned run on two hits and one walk over 4 1/3 innings.

Astros catcher Brian McCann will start behind the plate on Saturday following reinstatement from the 10-day disabled list. McCann has been sidelined since June 30 (right knee surgery).

“We’re going to get him back in the mix right away,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “I want to see his agility, I want to see his mobility, I want to see him hit with some leverage on his knee — all things that he’s shown in the minor leagues and he’s telling me that he can do.

“His ability behind the plate to run a game, to control the pitching staff, the trust of the pitching staff will come back immediately. There will be an immediate, great feeling out of the pitching staff when they throw to him. But I am eager to get him back in the mix because he brings a lot of intangibles, he brings a lot of experience, and he needs to get back in the flow of things having been out so long.”