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OC Register: Angels’ Shohei Ohtani could start throwing soon

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TEMPE, Ariz. — Shohei Ohtani is getting closer to being a two-way player again.

Since he had Tommy John surgery in October, Ohtani has spent most of his time focusing on returning as a hitter. Manager Brad Ausmus said Thursday morning that Ohtani is close to resuming a throwing program.

“It’s on the sooner side,” Ausmus said, without giving more specifics.

The Angels have said little about the timeline for Ohtani, but Ohtani said earlier this spring that he expected to start throwing toward the end of the March. This would put him ahead of that schedule.

Although Ohtani is not expected to pitch for the Angels this season, the start of his throwing program does have an impact on him returning as a hitter.

The Angels are trying to be careful with Ohtani, so they won’t have him increasing his throwing and hitting regimens at the same time. Currently, Ohtani is up to hitting balls flipped from a coach, taking about 30 swings a day. He has been swinging a bat for about a month.

Ausmus said Ohtani will decrease the swing workload once he starts throwing.

The next step in Ohtani’s hitting progression is taking batting practice in the cage with a coach throwing overhand. He’d then move to batting practice on the field, followed by batting practice against a pitcher.

Ausmus said at the start of spring training they were planning on Ohtani being in the lineup sometime in May, although at his current rate of progress that seems like a conservative estimate.

In a perhaps related development, Albert Pujols is in the lineup at first base for the Angels game Thursday afternoon. It’s his first time playing first in a game this spring.

Pujols, who is recovering from surgeries on his knee and elbow last year, is not expected to play first base during the season unless Ohtani is the designated hitter.

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