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OC Register: Angels’ Shohei Ohtani excited for next step in rehab


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TEMPE, Ariz. — Two days into the next step of his rehab, Shohei Ohtani was already looking ahead.

After he hit off a tee for the second consecutive day Saturday, Ohtani said he is looking forward to hitting balls flipped from a coach next week.

“It’s very exciting,” Ohtani said through his interpreter of his continued progress. “Obviously it’s still the early stages of rehab. My next step will be hitting flips, and I’m excited to take that step. … If all goes well, no setbacks, I am thinking sometime next week.”

Ohtani, who took 25 swings Saturday, added that he’s already swinging at 100 percent effort.

Ohtani began hitting baseballs a day before the Angels’ first game of the Cactus League, seemingly leaving plenty of time for him to get ready, if not by opening day, perhaps sometime in April.

Manager Brad Ausmus said just before the start of spring training that the Angels were expecting Ohtani in the lineup sometime in May.

On Saturday morning, he reiterated that there’s no rush.

“We are not going to risk his term success as a pitcher and a hitter just to speed him up off the tee or soft toss,” Ausmus said. “It’s just not in the plan. He’ll move to the next step when all parties think he’s ready for the next step.”

Ohtani, who had Tommy John surgery Oct. 1, still has to progress to hitting soft toss, and then to take regular batting practice thrown by a coach. After that, he will face live pitching.

Throughout the process, Ohtani has outwardly maintained the same demeanor he had while he was healthy last year.

“My spirits have been high ever since I decided to have the surgery,” he said. “It’s never fallen down. I am just trying to strive to get back to playing.”

Ohtani also spoke about the extra large bobbleheads of him the Angels have for sale. They are selling 24 of them for $1,000 apiece.

“I wouldn’t buy that,” Ohtani said. “I’d be pretty sad if it’s not sold out.”

ALSO

Justin Upton (knee tendinitis) was expected to stand in for some live batting practice Saturday, Ausmus said. “He’s getting closer to swinging against some pitchers,” Ausmus said…

Albert Pujols could play in one of the Angels’ three games over the next two days, Ausmus said. The Angels had said they would take it slowly this spring with Pujols, who had two surgeries last year, but he appears to be not far behind the other players…

Although Zack Cozart was hitting leadoff in the Angels’ first lineup of the spring, Ausmus said it’s just because the veteran players will hit at the top of the lineup to get their at-bats more quickly. He said Cozart is merely one of the candidates to hit leadoff during the season.

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