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Ohtani will face live pitchers, skip rehab stint

@RhettBollinger
April 16, 2019

ARLINGTON -- Shohei Ohtani will not go on a rehab assignment before rejoining the Angels, but it doesn’t affect his timeline to return, as he’s still expected to come back in May as a designated hitter, general manager Billy Eppler said Tuesday. Ohtani, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery

ARLINGTON -- Shohei Ohtani will not go on a rehab assignment before rejoining the Angels, but it doesn’t affect his timeline to return, as he’s still expected to come back in May as a designated hitter, general manager Billy Eppler said Tuesday.

Ohtani, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery on Oct. 1, has been hitting on the field at Angel Stadium against a pitching machine since Friday and is scheduled to face live pitching next week. He met with Dr. Neal ElAttrache on Monday, who cleared him to take that next step to face pitchers.

Ohtani, the reigning American League Rookie of the Year, will face pitchers in simulated games instead of a rehab assignment, as it gives him a chance to get more consistent at-bats. It’s similar to last season, when he needed roughly a week of facing live pitching before returning after his initial diagnosis of a torn ulnar collateral ligament. Eppler wouldn’t say where Ohtani will face live pitching, but did say it’ll be in California, not Arizona.

“We’re not going to put him on a rehab assignment,” Eppler said. “He doesn’t have to play defense so it’s the same situation we were in last June. We’ll take a similar approach. I’m not going to put a number on how many at-bats until after that day is finished.”

Ohtani is also still throwing three times a week, but won’t return to pitching until the 2020 season. But the Angels are still being cautious with him and not moving up his timeline. He’s currently seeing only fastballs from the pitching machine, but Eppler said the velocity is similar to that of Major Leaguers.

“He’s seeing velocity right now on a machine,” Eppler said. “Just getting accustomed to that. He’s not going to be [hitting] every single day. We’re going to work it in a progression. It’s not just without any kind of parameters or restrictions.”

Eppler, though, did say that Ohtani has been impressive with his batting practice, as Ohtani has maintained he feels like he has more power than last year, when he hit .285/.361/.564 with 22 homers, 21 doubles and 61 RBIs in 104 games.

“He’s got a lot of power and he’s showing it,” Eppler said. “He’s hitting a lot of balls out regularly."

Peters recalled, Curtiss optioned

Left-hander Dillon Peters was recalled from Triple-A Salt Lake on Tuesday, as right-hander John Curtiss was optioned to Triple-A after allowing one run in 2 1/3 innings in Monday’s 12-7 loss. Peters could give the Angels some length in their bullpen, as he made one start with Salt Lake, throwing 5 1/3 scoreless innings while allowing just one hit on April 7.

“It was just pounding the strike zone and moving some pitches around,” Peters said. “Basically, just executing some big pitches and that’s why my outing went well. Just pounding the zone and did what I was working on all preseason and before the season this year.”

Injury roundup

• Right-hander JC Ramirez, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery last April 17, is scheduled to face hitters in the early part of May, Eppler said. Ramirez will be stretched out to at least 60 pitches, as he could come back as either a starter or a reliever. Ramirez is out of Minor League options, however, so once he’s healthy, he’ll have to join the 25-man roster.

• Right-hander reliever Keynan Middleton is slightly behind Ramirez in his rehab from Tommy John surgery on May 22. He’ll start facing hitters in mid-May. But Middleton won’t need as much time to get ready for his return, as he won’t be stretched out like Ramirez and will come back as a reliever.

• Lefty Tyler Skaggs, on the 10-day injured list with a sprained left ankle, said everything went well after playing catch Monday and he is scheduled to throw a bullpen session later this week. The Angels remain hopeful he will miss just one start with the injury.

• Right-hander Nick Tropeano, recovering from a setback with his right shoulder this offseason, threw three innings and 45 pitches in an extended spring training game in Arizona on Tuesday. Tropeano will continue to build up his pitch count and, once he’s healthy, he’s likely to be optioned to Triple-A Salt Lake to give the Angels starting-pitching depth.

• Left-hander Andrew Heaney, on the 10-day injured list with left elbow inflammation, played catch up to 110 feet at Angel Stadium. Heaney is expected to get back on a mound in the next 10 to 12 days, Eppler said.

• Left fielder Justin Upton, on the injured list with left turf toe, is scheduled to have his walking boot removed in roughly a week. He’s still not expected to return until late May at the earliest, with a return in June more likely.

• Outfielder Michael Hermosillo, who is recovering from offseason surgery to repair a sports hernia, is scheduled to begin baseball activity in about two weeks.

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