Ohtani hits the ice in return to USA

Two-way star eager to get back on diamond for sophomore season

January 24th, 2019
Los Angeles Angels pitcher Shohei Ohtani, of Japan, arrives for the ceremonial puck drop before an NHL hockey game between the Anaheim Ducks and the St. Louis Blues, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)Jae C. Hong/AP

Reigning American League Rookie of the Year Award winner is back in the United States after a rehabilitation stint in his native Japan, and he's hungry to get back onto the diamond as soon as possible in 2019.

Ohtani was interviewed by Fox Sports West on Wednesday while he attended "Angels Night" at a home game for the NHL's Anaheim Ducks. The two-way star gave an update on his rehab from the Tommy John surgery he underwent Oct. 1 to repair damage to the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. Ohtani says he still does not have a concrete timetable for his return.

"I just got back to the U.S. yesterday and got right back to practice today," said Ohtani. "Everything is going well so far. There's no specific return date set yet; I just need to keep on working hard and communicating with the medical team and doctors, and I'll try to get back as soon as I can."

While his rehabilitation has been smooth so far, Ohtani said its restrictions have represented his biggest frustration.

"This is the longest I haven't been able to practice fully," Ohtani said, "and so that's been the biggest obstacle."

Ohtani almost certainly won't pitch again until 2020, but the Angels expect him back as a hitter for most of the upcoming season -- though it is unclear if he'll be in the Opening Day lineup. The rookie was one of MLB's dominant storylines last season, posting a 3.31 ERA and flashing 100 mph heat and a devastating splitter on the mound while also hitting 22 home runs with a .925 OPS across 367 plate appearances as a designated hitter.

It was a tremendous start for a player who entered the league with as much fanfare as any rookie in recent memory. However, while Ohtani acknowledged he was glad to claim Rookie of the Year Award honors, the Angels' success as a team remains his main focus.

"I want to make the postseason and play in the World Series," said Ohtani. "This past October, I was rehabbing and sitting in my bed watching the [World] Series, and that made me want to play in it a lot more."

The Angels will hold their first full-squad workout on Feb. 18, and begin their season with a four-game set in Oakland starting March 28. The baseball world should know in the coming weeks whether those games will include Ohtani, who made both his hitting and pitching debuts in Oakland last season.

Ohtani is scheduled to travel to New York this weekend to accept his AL Rookie of the Year Award at the BBWAA Awards Dinner.