A new rule would allow the Angels some unprecedented flexibility in how they bring two-way player Shohei Ohtani back from Tommy John surgery.

General manager Billy Eppler said Friday that teams now have the option of having a two-way player pitch in the minors, for purposes of rehabbing an injury, without going on the injured list.

That means Ohtani could continue to hit for the Angels in between outings in the minors.

Because Ohtani would not be on the injured list, he would remain a part of the Angels’ 26-man active roster while he’s gone, so they’d essentially be playing one man short in those games.

The Angels have said they plan to manage Ohtani’s innings this season, because he hasn’t pitched a full season since 2016 in Japan. They have not said exactly how they’ll do that, and they probably won’t detail the plan until the start of spring training.

One option on the table, however, would be for Ohtani to simply start his season as a pitcher late. If the Angels don’t want him to pitch in games until, say, May 1, they could essentially have him make his “spring training starts” in the minors in April, without losing his bat during that time.

If the Angels did that, they would probably only need to send Ohtani out for his last two or three starts, when he would need to get his pitch-limit up to a point that couldn’t be reached simply with a simulated game with the major-league team.

It’s still uncertain if that’s the approach the Angels will take. They could also prepare Ohtani for opening day, but have him skip starts throughout the season to manage his innings.

Ohtani had been scheduled to finish his pitching rehab in October, but that work was put on hold when he had September knee surgery, so Ohtani actually finished in December. Since then, he’s been throwing lightly, just to keep his arm in shape, Eppler said.

LA Daily News