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OC Register: Shohei Ohtani takes a step in preparation for possible return to Angels as hitter this year

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ANAHEIM — Shohei “faced” some live pitching on Friday afternoon.

He wasn’t cleared to swing, but it was nonetheless a small step and a glimmer of hope that the Angels could get Ohtani back this season, at least as a hitter.

As Ohtani was standing over the plate during Felix Peña’s bullpen session, Manager Mike Scioscia said it was an exercise to help him keep his timing against major league velocity until he’s able to hit.

“The one thing you lose when you aren’t hitting is the training of your eyes on velocity,” Scioscia said. “This helps him to see the ball and will make it a little smoother transition when he is able to get out there and hit.”

That won’t happen before next Thursday, when Ohtani is scheduled to be evaluated again. Doctors will then judge the healing of his sprained ulnar collateral ligament from the stem-cell therapy and platelet-rich plasma injection.

While the Angels haven’t publicly said anything about what they expect from his next evaluation, there are certainly some signs that it may be reasonable to hope he can hit again this year.

“For as much as we can tell right now, his progress has been great,” Scioscia said. “But realistically he hasn’t been challenged physically the way he eventually will to see if he’s ready to come back and hit and pitch at some point.”

In the meantime, Ohtani has been taking one-handed swings to keep his oblique and core muscles in tune with the rotation of a swing. He’s also been working out in the gym and running, Scioscia said.

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