Ohtani focused on next step of hitting off tee

February 17th, 2019

TEMPE, Ariz. -- is continuing to make progress in his rehab from Tommy John surgery. On Sunday, he said he is hopeful he'll be able to start hitting off a tee in the next week.

Ohtani, who has been limited to dry swings since undergoing the procedure on Oct. 1, is on a progression that will see him hit on a tee before moving on to soft toss, batting practice and live batting practice before he's ready to play in games. The Angels have targeted May as a return date for Ohtani, the reigning American League Rookie of the Year Award winner.

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"So far things are going as planned," Ohtani said through interpreter Eppei Mizuhara. "No problems at all. But maybe once I start throwing, maybe I'll start having some issues. But as of now, everything has been going well."

Ohtani, who will not pitch this season, added that he's not sure when he'll begin his throwing program. The focus so far has been on a return to hitting and he's preparing himself like he'll be ready for Opening Day, even though he's not expected back until May. He's been watching his teammates' bullpen sessions for timing reasons, but Ohtani said he hasn't stepped up to the plate to track pitches just yet.

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"Probably by the end of Spring Training, I'll start picking up a ball, but for now, I'm focused on the hitting side," Ohtani said. "I don't feel rushed or anything, but as a baseball player, I would like to make it on Opening Day. That's the thought. But I'm not trying to rush myself. It's all up to what the team wants. But I want to rehab and prepare as if I can be ready for Opening Day."

Manager Brad Ausmus confirmed that Ohtani could move up to hitting off a tee this week, but the skipper said it'll be up to the training staff. Ausmus said he's talked with Ohtani a few times with the help of Mizuhara and can tell how much of a competitor he is.

"Physically he's a once-in-a-lifetime talent, now if we can just get him back to where he was at the start of last year it would be perfect," Ausmus said. "We love to have him in an Angel uniform, whether he's on the mound or in the box or running the bases. One of the best-kept secret about him is how well he runs the bases, and the dirt he chews up going first to third and second to home. He's a gifted athlete and his focus and intensity makes him even better."

Angels tidbits

• Position players reported to camp on Sunday, meaning they had their physicals before full-squad workouts begin on Monday. Center fielder was among the arrivals at camp on Sunday and he took batting practice. He's scheduled to meet with the media on Monday.

• Right-hander threw the first live bullpen session of the spring on Sunday, as pitchers are starting to ramp it up with Cactus League play beginning on Saturday. Pena is in the mix for the fifth starter spot along with and , but Barria is considered the favorite.