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Back on the hill: Ohtani highlights intrasquad

Two-way star battles control, but 'very satisfied'; Heaney shows zip
@RhettBollinger
July 7, 2020

ANAHEIM -- Two-way star Shohei Ohtani and left-hander Andrew Heaney, slated to be the club’s Opening Day starter against the A’s on July 24, both pitched in the Angels’ first intrasquad game of Summer Camp on Tuesday. It marked the first time that Ohtani pitched in a competitive setting since

ANAHEIM -- Two-way star Shohei Ohtani and left-hander Andrew Heaney, slated to be the club’s Opening Day starter against the A’s on July 24, both pitched in the Angels’ first intrasquad game of Summer Camp on Tuesday.

It marked the first time that Ohtani pitched in a competitive setting since Sept. 2, 2018 -- which was his final start before he underwent Tommy John surgery that kept him from pitching in 2019. The last time he pitched at Angel Stadium was June 6 of that year.

Ohtani, though, struggled with his control, walking eight batters in three innings Tuesday. Of his 51 pitches, 15 were strikes. But he allowed just one hit, an RBI single from Tommy La Stella in the third, and he’s shown in the past that preseason stats don’t mean much to him.

"I'm glad to get through my pitches that I was supposed to pitch without any physical problems,” Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara via Zoom. “I'm very satisfied. Obviously it felt a lot different from my bullpens. I wasn't familiar with pitching to my teammates, so that kind of threw me off a little bit. But I still got three or four more days to recover and get back out there."

Ohtani said he’ll continue to build up his pitch count as Summer Camp goes along. He remains on track to begin the season as a two-way player and is expected to pitch once a week. With the way the schedule lines up, he’s likely to pitch on Sundays and serve as designated hitter three to five times each week -- much like in 2018, when he was the American League Rookie of the Year.

"I was able to throw all my pitches today,” Ohtani said. “I'm going to try to build on that, going to try to get all my pitches again my next outing with a little better command."

Angels manager Joe Maddon was pleased that Ohtani got through his outing without any physical issues and added that he’s seen him reach the mid-90s during his side sessions.

“His command was off,” Maddon said via Zoom. “He wasn’t just as sharp as he can be, obviously. I was told he kind of looked like that a few years ago. There’s no reason to be concerned or alarmed. He’s healthy.”

Angels pitching coach Mickey Callaway had a similar takeaway.

“Not as comfortable as you would hope, but at this point we’re not very concerned,” Callaway said. “I think the results will come because of Shohei’s great processes and the way he goes about his everyday work. That’s what we pay attention to more than the results. But I’m sure that he’ll continue to have great routines and get his pitches where he needs them to be so we get a little more outs than he did today.”

Heaney fared a bit better but gave up a two-run homer to Brian Goodwin as well as a single and a double to David Fletcher. Superstar Mike Trout walked twice, popped out and struck out against Heaney. Jason Castro also had two good at-bats against Heaney, hitting a deep drive to center for an out and smacking a double in the gap.

“I thought Heaney had a really good jump on his fastball,” Maddon said. “The guys coming back said it was coming on them very quickly. He has a quick release, and the ball gets out of his hand. He hung a slider to Goodwin, but otherwise was good.”

Right-hander Matt Andriese, who is competing for a spot in the rotation, pitched well and impressed Maddon. Andriese could pitch as a starter or a reliever this year, but with right-hander Julio Teheran still not at camp, he appears more likely to open the season in the rotation.

“Andriese knows how to pitch,” Maddon said. “Any team would like to have this guy in their pitching staff. He’s so versatile. He can get righties and lefties out. He knows exactly what he’s doing out there, and he’s a pleasure to watch.”

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