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OC Register: Shohei Ohtani would like to return to Angels’ lineup this month

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ANAHEIM — More than a week into taking batting practice on the field, Shohei Ohtani says he’s hoping he can return to the Angels’ lineup sooner than expected.

However, he understands the Angels want to go slowly with him. Manager Brad Ausmus said again on Thursday that nothing has changed with the club’s plan of having Ohtani return in May.

“Personally, I feel I could be back this month, but it’s up to the team,” Ohtani said through his interpreter on Thursday, the first time in nearly two weeks that he’d spoken to the media.

Ohtani, who is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, began taking batting practice on the field at Angel Stadium on March 27.

The Angels desperately need Shohei Ohtani’s bat in their lineup, and Ohtani seems eager to contribute.

“As a player, I think it’s natural to want to come back as soon as possible,” he said. “That’s how I’m feeling right now, but it’s ultimately up to the team. I know they are trying to be really careful.”

The Angels have moved Ohtani slowly at every step of his rehab, in order to ensure he has no setbacks and doesn’t jeopardize his future as a hitter or pitcher.

Ohtani slowly moved from hitting off a tee to hitting soft toss, to hitting off a coach in the cage and then to batting practice on the field. He took 50 swings on Thursday, including 25 on the field.

“Right now my swing feels great,” Ohtani said. “The power felt actually even a little better than last year. I think in that sense everything is going really well.”

The next step would be facing pitchers, most likely minor league pitchers in Anaheim or in extended spring training in Arizona.

Ohtani said he didn’t think that step would take long.

“It all depends how I feel once I start facing live pitching,” he said. “But my best guess right now is I wouldn’t need too much time.”

Last year Ohtani was cleared to hit on June 28 and he was in the Angels’ lineup on July 3. He took regular batting practice for a couple of days and then he hit against Angels minor league pitchers for a couple of days.

However, at that time he had already built up a base of swings from a full spring training and the first two-plus months of the regular season before his initial elbow injury.

This time he’s starting from the level other players are at early in spring training.

Ohtani is also still slowly increasing his throwing rehab. He said he’s up to a distance of 60 feet, throwing three times a week. He said he’s had no issues with throwing.

Around those workouts, Ohtani watched the Angels on TV with the other rehabbing players. He watched a slow offensive start lead to five losses in their first six games.

“I can’t say for sure just because I’m back in the lineup it’s going to make the team better,” Ohtani said. “Obviously I’m going to try my best to help the team win.”


Nick Tropeano, who was slowed in spring training with a recurrence of his shoulder trouble, said he’s now progressing well. He is expecting to throw a two-inning simulated game on Sunday or Monday. After that, he’d likely increase an inning every five days, meaning he could be available to the Angels sometime around the end of April. Tropeano still has options, so if the Angels don’t have a spot for him in the majors, he could pitch at Triple-A. …

The Angels dropped Zack Cozart to ninth in Thursday’s lineup. Cozart came into the game with one hit in his first 19 at-bats. Ausmus said he wasn’t seeing anything in particular in Cozart’s swing. He’s just mixing up the lineup.

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