Ohtani plays catch in recovery from TJ surgery

March 8th, 2019

TEMPE, Ariz. -- When Angels two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani is placed back onto the Angels' active roster this season, it will be as a designated hitter. Pitching, which Ohtani hasn't done since undergoing Tommy John surgery in October, is off the table until 2020.

But that doesn't mean Ohtani won't be spending this season taking necessary steps toward that highly anticipated return to the mound. One of those small, but significant strides took place on a back field at the Angels' spring complex on a chilly Friday morning, when Ohtani played catch for the first time since the surgery.

"I'm really satisfied with my progress so far," Ohtani said, through an interpreter. "From here now, I’ll start building up. Maybe there are going to be some setbacks, so want to be careful about those."

Categorizing the session as "playing catch" is probably a bit of an exaggeration. These were very soft tosses, and the entire session lasted 12 minutes. Ohtani threw 60 times: 20 tosses at 20 feet, 30 working back to 40 feet and 10 during a cooling down period.

"It was very light," Ohtani said. "The effort level was not there. It was something I was expecting. I was glad I was able to do it."

If anything, the session probably helped Ohtani more from a mental standpoint. The simple act of throwing after such a long layoff, and such a major surgical procedure, can be helpful in that manner with the recovery process. 

"I'm really relieved I was able to get through the 60 throws I had to go through at the distance I threw at," he said. "In that sense, mentally, I was very relieved. I just have to see tomorrow how my arm reacts."

Ohtani also took 15 swings off a tee, and took another 25 off soft tosses.

“Both hitting and pitching-wise, everything is going as scheduled, so I don’t feel rushed or pressured at all," he said. "Everything is going smoothly.”

Manager Brad Ausmus said the Angels will "back off the workload in terms of hitting" now that Ohtani is working on both sides of his game. 

The Angels maintain that Ohtani will be ready to rejoin the team as the DH sometime in May.

“That’s the timeline I’ve been given,” Ohtani said. “So hopefully at least by May, if not before. Anything earlier would be a plus.”