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Ohtani progressing, taking swings in cage

Reigning AL Rookie of the Year won't pitch in 2019, but still hopes to DH
@alysonfooter
March 6, 2019

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Angels look forward to the day Shohei Ohtani will partake in baseball activities on the field, but for now, most of his work is conducted in the indoor cages, away from the spotlight that's been following the Japanese star player since he arrived to the Majors

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The Angels look forward to the day Shohei Ohtani will partake in baseball activities on the field, but for now, most of his work is conducted in the indoor cages, away from the spotlight that's been following the Japanese star player since he arrived to the Majors last year.

Ohtani, who won't pitch until 2020 after undergoing Tommy John surgery, has hopes to serve as a designated hitter for the Angels at some point this season -- possibly in May -- and continues to take swings off soft tosses in the cage. He did so for a fifth time on Wednesday.

"I'm not doing anything different on the menu," Ohtani said through an interpreter. "I'm trying to regain my muscle strength on my right side, like when I make contact with the ball while swinging, making sure that there's no discomfort.

"I'm sure things will change a little once I start swinging outside, but at this point there isn’t anything that I would want to change from my program."

The soft toss regimen will continue for a while longer. The plan beyond that will be revealed at a later time, as Ohtani continues to be evaluated.

"I just want him to stay on the program we have," manager Brad Ausmus said. "It was created for a reason. I've said before he's kind of a new case study because he's a pitcher and also a designated hitter. We don't want to risk either part of that career. We're relying on the medical staff a lot. We just want him to follow the program and hopefully we have him back sooner than later."

Full circle

Stick around the game long enough and you'll start seeing some familiar names recycled through the roster sheets, thanks in part to a good gene pool passed down through the generations.

Ausmus played with and against hundreds of ballplayers during his 18-year career as a Major League catcher, and he has managed dozens more since. And some of the names are all too familiar, such as Torii Hunter Jr., an outfield prospect in the Angels' system.

Ausmus also managed Torii Hunter Sr. when the two were with the Tigers a few years back.

"It's bad enough when I was playing against [sons of] guys I played with," Ausmus joked. "I played with Tony Gwynn; played against his son [Tony Gwynn Jr.]. I played with Cecil Fielder; played against his son [Prince Fielder].

“I managed Torii Hunter, and now I manage his son. I'm getting up there.”

Health news and notes

• Left-hander Andrew Heaney will pitch against the White Sox on Friday as planned, Ausmus confirmed Wednesday morning.

"He threw a bullpen yesterday, and he said he felt good today," Ausmus said. "I talked to him this morning, and he's on track."

Heaney was dealing with elbow inflammation, but he downplayed the development at the time, and no MRI was needed.

• Outfielder Justin Upton, out with right knee tendinitis, is "on track" with his rehab, Ausmus said, and should be able to play in a game soon. He may test out the knee in a Minor League game first, but that will be decided at a later time.

Albert Pujols will play first base for the first time this spring on Thursday when the Angels host the Dodgers at Tempe Diablo Stadium. Pujols is being eased back into his position after undergoing left knee surgery late last season.

Up Next

The Angels have a split-squad day coming up on Thursday, with half the team staying home to host the Dodgers at 12:10 p.m. PT and half heading to Surprise to meet the Royals at 12:05 p.m. PT. Right-hander Felix Pena will take the mound for the Angels at home, while righty Jaime Barria will pitch the road game. The home game is on MLB.TV and will be televised by Fox Sports West.

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.