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OC Register: Angels’ Shohei Ohtani steps up rehab with batting practice in the cage

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TEMPE, Ariz. — Shohei Ohtani took another step toward returning to the Angels lineup.

Ohtani took regular batting practice in the cage on Sunday morning, the first time he’d done so since undergoing Tommy John surgery on Oct. 1.

A day after Ohtani said he hoped to take that step within a week, he got the go-ahead from trainers to progress in his rehab.

Ohtani had been just hitting soft toss for a couple weeks, but he added the next step, with a coach throwing overhand. Ohtani took 10 swings on pitched balls, after taking 10 off a tee and 10 soft toss.

It was a lighter day swinging the bat because he also played catch, making 70 throws at a distance of up to 50 feet.

Next up for Ohtani will be moving onto the field for batting practice. Manager Brad Ausmus said that’s a significant jump from what he’s doing.

“Once you put him on the field you can see the outfield wall and you want to hit it over,” Ausmus said. “When you’re in the cages and it’s soft toss or overhand soft toss, you’re still constrained by the nets. You put them out here and they see 360 feet down the line, 400 to center field. There’s a little added energy in the swing. So I think it’s a bigger step getting on the field.”

Ausmus would not commit to how long this step might take. After Ohtani progresses to batting practice on the field, he just needs to face live pitching. Ausmus has maintained since the start of spring training that the soonest Ohtani would be ready is May.


Andrew Heaney, who is out with elbow inflammation, threw on Sunday morning for the first time since Mar. 8. After that start he reported issues with elbow, so the team shut him down. An MRI exam showed no structural damage.

Although Ausmus said he and Heaney were both encouraged by his return to throwing, Ausmus conceded that he’s missed too much time to be ready when the season starts on Mar. 28.

Last spring Heaney had a similar issue and he started the season on the disabled list. He made his debut on April 13 and pitched a team-leading 180 innings.


A year into his transition from catcher to third base, Taylor Ward has struggled in the field this spring. He has made six errors in 77 innings at third.

“This is his first big league camp as a third baseman, so it seems like he’s putting some extra pressure on himself, which you’d expect for a player like him,” said Mike Gallego, the Angels’ third base coach and infield instructor. “He sees an opportunity there and he’s put added pressure on trying to impress and make the club instead of being athletic. That’s where we’re trying to get him.”

Gallego, who was the Angels director of player development when Ward was converted last year, said he thinks he still has the potential to be a capable third baseman.

“The thing with making errors is learning from it and wanting the next ground ball to come to you,” Gallego said. “He still want the ball. That’s a huge plus. There’s definitely been growth there, mentally and physically. The more experience he gets, the better he’s going to be.”


Justin Upton (knee tendinitis) and Zack Cozart (strained calf) were scheduled to again hit in minor league games on Sunday. Cozart will hit again on Monday and Upton will have the day off. If all goes well, both will play in Tuesday night’s Cactus League game. It would be the first game of the spring for Upton, and possibly the first time the Angels use their entire opening day lineup. …

The Angels will have Felix Peña pitch in a minor league game on Monday, which is a scheduled off day in the Cactus League schedule. On Tuesday they will use relievers. On Wednesday Tyler Skaggs will start the major league exhibition and Jaime Barría will pitch in a minor league game.

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