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Ohtani advances to next step en route to return

@RhettBollinger
March 1, 2019

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Shohei Ohtani took another step forward Friday in his rehab from Tommy John surgery, as he progressed to hitting soft toss after previously hitting off a tee for a week. Ohtani, who underwent the operation on his right elbow on Oct. 1 and will only serve as

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Shohei Ohtani took another step forward Friday in his rehab from Tommy John surgery, as he progressed to hitting soft toss after previously hitting off a tee for a week.

Ohtani, who underwent the operation on his right elbow on Oct. 1 and will only serve as a designated hitter this season, took 15 swings during soft toss drills and 25 more swings off a tee. The Angels have targeted a May return date for Ohtani, as he still must move up to live batting practice before he’s ready to play in games.

"He's patient zero, so he doesn't really have a set schedule,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “He is making the schedule for future Shohei Ohtani's."

Ohtani, the reigning American League Rookie of the Year, won’t pitch this season, but will begin a throwing program once he’s cleared by Angels doctors and trainers. The Angels are trying to be cautious with Ohtani, as they don’t want to him to have any setbacks that could hinder his ability to be a two-way player again in 2020.

Upton participates in outfield drills

Left fielder Justin Upton, who has been dealing with right knee tendinitis, has been making solid progress, as he took batting practice on the field Thursday and ran on the field during outfield drills Friday. But Ausmus cautioned he’s not quite ready to play in Cactus League games.

"He's still got a little ways before you'd see him in a game,” Ausmus said. “He's definitely progressing. Took BP on the field yesterday. He's getting closer, but he's still a little ways away."

Ausmus also described the symptoms that Upton has been experiencing, but reiterated that it’s considered minor and Upton has time to get ready for Opening Day.

"Just certain movements might aggravate it,” Ausmus said. “Just trying to get all the irritation out before we put him in a game situation. So 99.9 percent of the day, he feels perfectly fine. It might just be one movement that doesn't feel great. We're trying to eliminate that 0.1 percent."

Hudson to start Sunday

The Angels will use a reliever to start Sunday’s game against the A’s, as veteran right-hander Daniel Hudson will take the mound first at Tempe Diablo Stadium. Hudson has pitched in one game this spring, allowing a run on a solo homer.

Hudson, a former starter with the D-backs before converting to the bullpen after two Tommy John surgeries, made one start as an opener last year with the Dodgers. Ausmus said he's open to the concept of having an opener start a game, but said it's not necessary now because the club has enough starting pitching depth.

"If it made sense strategically, I would,” Ausmus said. “But as of right now, I don't have any plans to do it. But I'll do it if it made sense."

Thaiss, Calhoun and Walsh carry offense

First baseman Matt Thaiss stayed hot in the Angels' 10-7 win over the Royals on Friday, crushing a solo homer in the third. He's 8-for-13 with six extra-base hits and nine RBIs this spring.

Right fielder Kole Calhoun, who has worked to tweak his batting stance to make it a bit more open this spring, roped a two-run triple as part of a four-run second.

"The results are nice, but you really want to get your mechanics dialed in right now," Calhoun said. "This is the place to work on it. You have to get yourself in a position where you can let your body and your mechanics work. Some days you're going to try some stuff and see what works and how it goes."

Two-way player Jared Walsh, who pitched a scoreless inning in relief Thursday, came in as the designated hitter and smacked a two-run double off the left-field wall in the seventh.

Up next

Righty Jaime Barria, the favorite to win the club’s fifth starter competition, will start against the Reds in Goodyear on Saturday at 12:05 p.m. PT. Barria, 22, gave up a leadoff homer in his first start of the spring but settled down to get through two innings with one strikeout. Right-hander Matt Harvey will also pitch in a "B" game in Tempe, as he sustained a glute strain early in camp and is slightly behind the other starters.

Rhett Bollinger covers the Angels for MLB.com. He previously covered the Twins from 2011-18. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.