LAS VEGAS – Albert Pujols will leave his 39-year-old season after another knee surgery, without any guarantee that he will even be on a substitute level. Shohei Ohtani is recovering from the operation of Tommy John and is treated with extreme caution, as he is important to the long-term sustainability of the franchise.
Brad Ausmus' most difficult assignment in his first year as manager of the Los Angeles Angels will be overseeing the record appearance of Pujols and Ohtani at the designated hitter.
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There is no clear answer.
"There will be a balance," said Ausmus during his media coverage of the winter meetings in Las Vegas on Wednesday. "We do not expect Ohtani to be ready for the season [starts], There will be more DH racquets in the season earlier [Pujols]and hopefully he gets a hot start. But for me, that's the bigger and more sensitive balance, how often [Pujols] go first [base], This is really the most important thing because of the health of his knees. "
Ohtani was a beginner with the ability to be an elitist major league hitter in both the left and righty. In 367 record appearances, 0.925 OPS and 22 home runs were produced. Since Ohtani can only be a DH, the only chance for Pujols to break the grid on most evenings is to play the first base. Pujols only started 34 games on the first base from 2016 to 2017, but increased that number to 70 in 2018 and finished the season with a .700 OPS and 19 home runs in 498 record appearances.
Pujols, who still has $ 87 million left over his contract, said at the end of the season that he would try to play "as many games as possible at the first base".
"My first hope is that Albert is fine," said Ausmus, adding that he would prefer to beat Mike Trout in second place. "He had knee surgery and I've talked to him a couple of times, he says he feels great, but we'll still have to slow it down in spring training, and then it's just a matter of how he feels and how he feels is working
"In my eyes, he's one of the top five hitter in baseball, and I saw him firsthand when I was in Houston and she [the Astros] were in the National League Central [with Pujols’ St. Louis Cardinals], The guy is a phenomenal talent. But in the future it will only be his health and performance. It is a performance based game. "
The Pujols, who had knee surgery in August and then had an elbow operation in September, were released for all upper body work and lighter abdominal work, Angels general manager Billy Eppler said Tuesday. Ohtani, according to Eppler, shows "great freedom of movement" and "full flexion" in Japan and will eventually meet with a doctor in L.A.
It is too early to say how much each of them will contribute.
Ausmus spent the last season as a special assistant at Eppler in the front office. He compared Ohtani's power, especially with the opposite, with that of Miguel Cabrera, the Ausmus succeeded during his time at the Detroit Tigers. And he compared Ohtani's speed with that of an NFL wide receiver.
But the angels do not want to lose sight of how good Ohtani can be as a starter.
"It's a kind of new ground in the sense that he's coming back from Tommy John, and we really want to protect that elbow so he can peck in 2020 and beyond," said Ausmus. "And he's such a dominant pitcher, you want to make sure you keep that in. We'll probably rely more on the medical team and be a little more cautious, of course we want him back because we want him in the lineup Priority is to make sure we do not risk him as a launcher when he's back. "