Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani has been taking fly balls in the outfield and grounders at first base in an attempt to increase his versatility, although he won’t see any action in the field this season because of his right elbow/forearm strain.
Manager Joe Maddon believes Ohtani is too talented and too athletic to be restricted to only being a designated hitter when he's not pitching. Ohtani has only pitched and served as DH in the Majors, but he did play 62 games in the outfield during his time in Japan with the Nippon-Ham Fighters.
"It's just a practice thing right now for him, but you can see how proficient he is at it," Maddon said. "But there's no immediate plans. If you're a young man like that and all you're going to get to do is swing the bat, that's going to get kind of boring. I'd like to see him diversify a little bit, I think just by moving around like that, practicing like that's going to actually help them in the batter's box."
Maddon said he’s also impressed by Ohtani’s speed in the outfield and the range he has tracking down balls. Ohtani has an average sprint speed of 28.7 feet per second, which is tied for fastest on the Angels with Jo Adell and ranks tied for 23rd in the Majors, per Statcast.
“He needs to move around a little bit, and you can see how well he does move around,” Maddon said. “There was a ball hit in right-center, and he runs he runs so kind of perfectly and easily. Fascinating.”
Ohtani, the 2018 AL Rookie of the Year Award winner, returned to two-way status this year, but he only made two starts before suffering a right elbow/forearm injury that will keep him from pitching until '21. The Angels plan on using Ohtani as a two-way player again next season, but Maddon wants to continue to find creative ways to utilize Ohtani’s talents.
“He can play anywhere; he’s that good,” Maddon said. “He’s starting to get more comfortable in batter’s box, but no immediate plans. He needs to move around. We’re also seeing that he’s capable of playing any outfield position.”
• Reliever Cam Bedrosian has been throwing at about 80 percent intensity and is getting closer to a return. Bedrosian has been out since Aug. 2 with a right adductor strain.
“I got the report that a couple days ago he threw,” Maddon said. “He's getting there. He’s coming along, not quite there yet, but I just got the report I think yesterday or the day before.”
• Right-hander Jaime Barria was recalled to be the club’s 29th man for the doubleheader against the Astros on Tuesday in Houston. Barria has remained stretched out at the club’s alternate training site in Long Beach, Calif.
• Outfielder Justin Upton is remaining positive despite his slow start to the season in his role as a clubhouse leader. Upton, who turned 33 on Tuesday, homered on Monday and said he’s been working hard to fix his mechanics.
"The worst thing I could possibly do is to come in here and hinder the growth of the team and hinder the atmosphere,” Upton said. “I'm gonna try to continue to come in here and be there for my teammates."