Report | Shohei Otani may return to lineup as soon as Friday

Japan's pinch hitter Shohei Otani watches the flight of his ground-rule double with Netherlands' catcher Dashenko Ricardo in the seventh inning of their international exhibition series baseball game at Tokyo Dome in Tokyo, Sunday, Nov. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)
(AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi)

Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters outfielder/pitcher Shohei Otani is slated to possibly return the team’s batting order as early as Friday, according to Jon Morosi of FOX Sports. The two-way Japanese phenom has not batted in a game since April and is yet to pitch in a game this season.

In the eight games he played, the left-handed swinging Otani has gone 11-for-27 with two home runs and three RBIs.

Last season at age 21, he batted .322 with a .416 on-base percentage and 22 home runs and 67 RBIs over 104 games. But that wasn’t all: On the mound, he went 10-4 with a 1.86 ERA and a 0.957 WHIP, throwing four complete games and striking out 174 batters in 140 innings of work.

He began playing for the team during the 2013 season when he was still 18 years old. For his career, he is a .279 batter with a .351 on-base percentage, having clubbed 42 home runs over his first five seasons. On the mound, he owns a career 39-13 record with a 2.49 ERA with 12 complete games. He is averaging 10.3 K/9 IP and has allowed just 22 home runs in over 517 innings of work.

The Japanese outfielder has gained widespread popularity in the United States over the bidding war that would potentially ensue to secure his services. On top of his ability to both hit and pitch, Otani is roughly the same age as any player coming directly out of college. He was expected to play as a member of the Japanese National Team at the 2017 World Baseball Classic, but was forced to pull out due to injury.

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