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Ohtani could hit soft-toss pitching soon

Two-way star hits off tee for second straight day; Peters goes two scoreless in spring opener
@RhettBollinger
February 23, 2019

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Shohei Ohtani hit off a tee for a second straight day on Saturday and said if all goes well, he could participate in soft-toss drills in about a week. Ohtani, who is recovering from Oct. 1 Tommy John surgery, has been swinging with full intensity and hit

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Shohei Ohtani hit off a tee for a second straight day on Saturday and said if all goes well, he could participate in soft-toss drills in about a week.

Ohtani, who is recovering from Oct. 1 Tommy John surgery, has been swinging with full intensity and hit off a tee for the first time since the operation on Friday. He took 20 swings off a tee on Friday and 25 on Saturday.

"So far, so good; no problems," Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. “It's very exciting. Obviously, it's still the easy stages of the rehab. My next step will be hitting flips and I’m excited to take that step.”

Angels manager Brad Ausmus, though, said they won’t rush Ohtani, who is on track to return in May. Ohtani will continue to progress in his rehab, moving up from tee work to soft toss to batting practice before facing live pitching.

"We are not going to risk his long-term success as both a pitcher and a hitter just to speed him up off the tee or soft toss right now,” Ausmus said. “It's just not in the plans. He'll move to the next step when all parties believe it's time to move to the next step."

Ohtani, who will not pitch this season, said he still feels like he is part of the team and that he plans to intently watch Angels’ Spring Training games against teams they’ll play against in the regular season.

"I don’t really feel left out or left behind, because this is something I was expecting," Ohtani said. "I knew it was going to be like this in Spring Training. Of course, I want to play with them as soon as I can join the team."

Peters solid in spring debut

Left-hander Dillon Peters, who is competing for the fifth spot in the rotation with candidates such as Jaime Barria and Felix Pena, started the Cactus League opener for the Angels -- a 10-3 win -- on Saturday, tossing two scoreless innings. He allowed just one hit and was efficient, needing only 19 pitches to get six outs, four of which were on the ground.

“The first day of spring, everyone is excited,” Peters said. “It’s a start and you have to perform and do what is asked of you. I didn’t care if it was Game 3 or Game 1, or inning two or four, I was going to be locked in. I’m here to get some innings under my belt and I’m excited to be here.”

Cozart plays in first game since surgery

After undergoing season-ending surgery on his labrum in his left shoulder in June, Zack Cozart returned to action, starting at third base and hitting lead off. He went 1-for-2 with a single up the middle to open the first inning.

“You always get butterflies because it had been like eight months or so since my last at-bat,” Cozart said. “I’m just trying to get that timing. But third base, I actually felt really good over there. I’m just excited to be out there and physically able to play.”

Top prospect Jo Adell starts in spring opener

Angels claim Cowart

Kaleb Cowart is back with the Angels, as they claimed him on waivers from the Tigers on Saturday.

Cowart, a career .177/.241/.293 hitter in four seasons with the Angels, has been working as a two-way player this spring. The 26-year-old right-hander pitched in high school but is out of Minor League options, so he can't be sent to Triple-A without first clearing waivers.

To make room for Cowart, right-hander JC Ramirez was placed on the 60-day injured list. Ramirez is recovering from Tommy John surgery and isn’t expected to return until June.

Angels tidbits

• Third baseman Taylor Ward hit a grand slam as part of a five-run fifth inning for the Angels. Ward is competing for a starting spot in the infield with David Fletcher, Luis Rengifo and Tommy La Stella.

• Right fielder Justin Upton, who is dealing with right knee tendinitis, stood in during live bullpen sessions on Saturday. He’s getting close to being able to hit live pitching and has been throwing without any issues.

Up next

The Angels have split-squad action on Saturday, as they host the Reds at 12:10 p.m. PT and travel to play the Dodgers at 12:07 p.m. PT. Right-hander Forrest Snow will start the game at Tempe Diablo Stadium, while right-hander Jesus Castillo will take the mound at Camelback Ranch.

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