ANAHEIM — Shohei Ohtani took an important step toward his return as a two-way player next year on Wednesday, as the right-handed pitcher/designated hitter threw his first bullpen session since undergoing Tommy John surgery on Oct. 1.
Ohtani, who is the club’s regular designated hitter but will not pitch again
Ohtani, who is the club’s regular designated hitter but will not pitch again until 2020, threw 20 pitches from the windup with the catcher standing near home plate, and 20 more from the stretch with the catcher squatting behind the plate. The reigning American League Rookie of the Year also threw 70 pitches on flat ground in the outfield prior to his throwing session in the Angels’ bullpen.
“It felt really comfortable,” Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. “It felt good to get on there again. As long as my arm reacts well, I’ll keep on throwing, keep on going back out there. I have to see how it reacts tomorrow.”
Ohtani also threw from the stretch. Threw roughly 45 pitches total in the bullpen season pic.twitter.com/XIAXUcfBUW
— Rhett Bollinger (@RhettBollinger) June 26, 2019
Pitching coach Doug White watched Ohtani’s bullpen session and came away pleased with the way the ball was coming out of Ohtani’s hand. Ohtani said he threw at about 50 percent effort and threw only fastballs. He’s scheduled to throw off a mound again on Saturday. The plan is get him through his rehab this season so that he can have a normal offseason heading into next year.
“He looked great,” White said. “It’s very low intensity, trying to feel the slope of the mound. But he looked great. He always knows what he wants to do. He always knows how he wants to feel, and the process with which he’s going to get it done. It’s nice to see.”
Ohtani, 23, was in the lineup against the Reds on Wednesday night, starting at designated hitter and hitting third. He entered the game hitting .277/.339/.490 with nine homers and 31 RBIs in 42 games. He believes being able to hit has made his rehab process easier because he’s not simply focusing only on his throwing.
“Mentally, I think I was able to handle it better than other players, because I’ve been hitting every day,” Ohtani said. “That helps me mentally get through it compared to other people that can’t do anything.”
Angels make roster moves
Cahill, who was on the 10-day injured list with right elbow soreness, has struggled this year with a 7.18 ERA in 12 outings. He met with manager Brad Ausmus on Tuesday and was told he’ll be pitching out of the bullpen.
“It wasn’t going great as a starter, so we might as well try something different,” Cahill said. “I’ve done both. We’ll go a little shorter, see how it goes.”
The Angels also opted to keep rookie infielder Luis Rengifo on the roster instead of optioning him to Triple-A to get consistent playing time. Tovar was the casualty instead, as Rengifo has played well enough to get regular at-bats in the Majors.
Complicating things is the imminent return of shortstop Andrelton Simmons, who could be reinstated from the injured list as soon as Thursday. But even once Simmons gets back, the Angels believe they can get enough playing time for Rengifo.
“We’ve been pushing [David] Fletcher and [Tommy] La Stella to their limits in terms of playing,” Ausmus said. “Part of me feels like giving them a day here or there would help them long term to keep them strong and healthy. If there’s some type of rotation, and not a strict rotation, but one where we can play them at three positions and occasionally give Simba a day off when he gets back. I think it’s very doable.”
Ramirez’s rehab date pushed back
“So far, the reports are more medically based on how he feels,” Ausmus said. “When someone does have UCL repair they can elect to extend the 30 days on the rehab. He has to agree to the extension, obviously. But there has been an extension.”