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Ohtani hits off tee for 1st time since surgery

Reigning AL Rookie of the Year remains on track to return in May
@RhettBollinger
February 22, 2019

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Shohei Ohtani took a step forward in his rehab from Tommy John surgery on Friday, as he hit off a tee for the first time since undergoing the operation on Oct. 1. Ohtani, who had been limited to dry swings prior to Friday, took 20 swings off

TEMPE, Ariz. -- Shohei Ohtani took a step forward in his rehab from Tommy John surgery on Friday, as he hit off a tee for the first time since undergoing the operation on Oct. 1.

Ohtani, who had been limited to dry swings prior to Friday, took 20 swings off a tee with four repetitions of five swings each. He also took 35 dry swings.

He remains on track for a return in May, as manager Brad Ausmus said Ohtani is on schedule with his rehab process. Ohtani is working to return as a designated hitter this season, as he won’t pitch again until 2020. There’s still no timeline for when he’ll start his throwing program.

Ohtani, the reigning American League Rookie of the Year, will continue to hit off a tee until he progresses to soft toss drills. From there, Ohtani will work his way up to batting practice and then live batting practice before he’s ready to play in games.

Cozart, Lucroy to play Saturday

The Angels open Cactus League play on Saturday against the Giants at Tempe Diablo Stadium at 12:10 p.m. PT in a game that will be televised by Fox Sports West and can be seen live on MLB.TV. Lefty Dillon Peters will start the game, and Ausmus announced that Zack Cozart and Jonathan Lucroy will both be in the lineup.

Ausmus also said that Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Kole Calhoun are among those who will not play on Saturday. Cozart has been fully cleared after undergoing surgery in late June to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder.

Lucroy will make his Angels spring debut behind the plate and will catch Peters, who is competing for the fifth spot in the rotation along with Jaime Barria, Felix Pena and prospects Griffin Canning and Jose Suarez.

“The first game of Spring Training, everyone is excited,” Peters said. “Obviously, to get the nod for the first start is a blessing. I’m happy to be here and put on a good show.”

Ausmus, though, said it’s too early in the spring to take too much away from these games, as he won’t really start evaluating players until next month.

"I think we'll have to go a little bit deeper into the games before we start evaluating,” Ausmus said. “Guys are getting their feet wet. Some guys are much farther along if they played winter ball. So everyone has to play catch up and then the evaluation comes a little easier."

Rain shortens practice for second straight day

The Angels worked out on the main field at Tempe Diablo Stadium for less than an hour on Friday before the rain forced them to move their workouts inside. It came after the Angels hosted indoor-only workouts on Thursday because of the weather.

Ausmus said the hard part is that the club hasn’t been able to finish its fundamental drills before the start of Spring Training games, but said they’ll do their best to catch up this week with better weather in the forecast.

“If we can’t take the field, we can’t do fundamentals,” Ausmus said. “It definitely has an impact.”

Upton making progress

Right fielder Justin Upton said he’s been feeling better after dealing with tendonitis in his right knee. He said he’s been able to swing the bat off a tee and during soft toss with no issues and has also been playing catch. It’s considered a minor injury, and he’ll be held out of Cactus League games early in spring.

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