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Angels' Shohei Ohtani cleared to begin last step in his return to lineup

Maria Torres, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Baseball

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Angels two-way player Shohei Ohtani has been cleared to face pitchers, the last stage in his return to the lineup as a hitter.

Dr. Neal ElAttrache, who reconstructed the ulnar collateral ligament in Ohtani's right elbow in October, on Monday determined that Ohtani has healed well enough that hitting against live pitching would not jeopardize his progress. The Angels expect him to step in the box against pitchers in no fewer than seven days.

"All is good," manager Brad Ausmus said at Globe Life Park. "Everything came back good. The doctor was pleased and he's going to continue his progression. If all goes well, next week he'll see live pitchers. As to where that happens, that's still to be determined."

Ohtani has been hitting on the field against coaches for about three weeks. He started taking swings in the batting cage off pitching machines set to high velocities late last week.

Ohtani throws right-handed and bats left-handed. It's easier on his body for him to return to batting than it is pitching. He isn't expected to return to a major league mound until next season, but the Angels have said since February that they plan for Ohtani to rejoin the lineup as their designated hitter in May.

That timeline may hold. If Ohtani is sent on a minor league rehab assignment, it would take several games for him to log enough at-bats to be ready to play at the major league level. But if the Angels choose to throw simulated games at Angel Stadium, Ohtani could get up to 10 at-bats in one day.

 

"Once we determine where he's going to do the live (hitting), it gives us a better idea of how long it will take" for him to come back, Ausmus said. "Some of it depends on how he feels."

When Ohtani spoke with reporters in Anaheim last week, he said through an interpreter that he felt "ready to go right now." He's noticed that his power has improved. He doesn't feel like he's missed a step. But there are still a few hurdles to clear.

(c)2019 Los Angeles Times

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