Ohtani hits 15th HR after encouraging sim game

Two-way phenom confident he'll pitch in Majors again this year

August 28th, 2018

ANAHEIM -- continued to forge ahead in his return to the mound on Monday afternoon, throwing 50 pitches over three innings in his second simulated game at Angel Stadium. The two-way phenom said afterward that he feels he is ready to pitch in the Majors, though he acknowledged that the decision is out of his hands.

"Personally, I feel like I don't need any more simulated games, but that's not up to me, ultimately," Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. "It's going to be up to the coaching staff and the training staff, so I have to talk to them first."

While Ohtani continues to rehab his pitching arm, his bat appears to be working just fine. In the fourth inning of Monday's 10-7 Angels victory over the Rockies, Ohtani took deep for his 15th home run of the year, a three-run shot. Ohtani became the fourth player in Major League history with 15 or more home runs and three pitching appearances in a season, joining Jimmy Ryan, Babe Ruth and Matt Davidson.

Ohtani has not pitched for the Angels since June 6 because of a Grade 2 sprain of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, but he has enjoyed a smooth rehab so far, making the possibility of September comeback seem increasingly likely for the 24-year-old rookie.

"I was always confident that I would be able to pitch some time during the season," Ohtani said. "Every step, I'm getting closer and closer, so I'm feeling more confident."

Manager Mike Scioscia said Ohtani will be evaluated in the coming days and throw a bullpen session later this week before the Angels determine his next step. Scioscia added that the club was encouraged by the results of Monday's simulated game and said he believes Ohtani's stuff is sharp enough to get Major League hitters out now.

"The pitch count was great," Scioscia said. "He maintained his stuff all the way through the workout. Three ups. There are so many positives you can take away from it. The velocity was really good. It's a step forward. We'll see how he's evaluated in the next couple of days and then what the next step is."

With rosters set to expand on Saturday, the Angels could afford to have Ohtani return to their rotation despite not being fully stretched out as a starter. If Ohtani returns in September as expected, Scioscia said the Angels plan to maintain the once-a-week pitching schedule they developed for him prior to the elbow injury. That schedule also had Ohtani out of the Angels' lineup on the day before, the day after and the day of his starts on the mound.

Ohtani posted a 3.10 ERA with 61 strikeouts over 49 1/3 innings in nine starts before landing on the disabled list. Scioscia reiterated that he believes it would be helpful for Ohtani to pitch again in the Majors this year to gain peace of mind about the health of his elbow ligament, which was treated with stem-cell and platelet-rich plasma injections on June 7.

"I think it's important for any pitcher that has gone through what Shohei has gone through to get out there, compete, get confidence that you're healthy and then get ready for an offseason regimen that will get you ready to go next year," Scioscia said. "I think with Shohei, it's going to be the process. Let's just take one step at a time. We'll see what it leads to, what it builds to this last month."