Ohtani says US start going 'pretty well' despite injury

Shohei Ohtani #17 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, arrived Stateside in December to great fanfare, aiming to star both on the mound and at the plate -- the first slugger-pitcher combination effort since legend Babe Ruth's heyday a century ago (AFP Photo/Jayne Kamin-Oncea) (GETTY/AFP/File)

Los Angeles (AFP) - Japanese two-way star Shohei Ohtani says the first half of his rookie Major League Baseball season "went pretty well" despite an elbow ligament sprain currently limiting him to hitting duties.

Ohtani, 24, arrived Stateside in December to great fanfare, aiming to star both on the mound and at the plate -- the first slugger-pitcher combination effort since legend Babe Ruth's heyday a century ago.

As the season reaches the All-Star Game break, a sprain of the ulnar collateral ligament in Ohtani's right elbow has seen him limited to hitting duties, although he is scheduled for medical evaluation next Thursday to determine whether the platelet-rich plasma and stem-cell injections he received in June have helped his elbow heal.

"I didn't set any expectations for myself before the season," Ohtani told MLB.com. "I just wanted to see how things panned out. I had to get through some ups and downs, but overall it went pretty well."

In nine pitching starts, Ohtani went 4-1 with a 3.10 earned-run average and 61 strikeouts.

He entered Sunday batting .285 with seven home runs and 22 runs batted in over 156 plate appearances.

"Shohei has shown that his talent is real, and he can play at a very high level in the major leagues," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "We're excited about that. I think he has done remarkably well for a young player coming over with so much on his plate."

Scioscia has been impressed with Ohtani's speed on the basepaths, and says he is improving against left-handed pitching, as evidenced by his pinch-hit double off Dodgers lefty Scott Alexander in a 3-2 loss at Dodger Stadium on Friday.

"That was a great at-bat last night from a guy that, a week before, had made tough pitches on him and struck him out," Scioscia said. "It's definitely encouraging."

Scioscia also has been pleased to see Ohtani thrive in a pinch-hitting role.

"It's not easy, but he seems like he doesn't come out of his game when he's pinch-hitting," said Scioscia, who said the Angels "look forward to him swinging the bat more as we get into the second half."