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Notes: Ohtani improves, Thaiss joins camp

@RhettBollinger
July 13, 2020

ANAHEIM -- After struggling on the mound in his summer camp debut on Tuesday, Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani fared a bit better in Monday’s intrasquad action at Angel Stadium. Ohtani, who dealt with some back stiffness after his last outing, showed that he’s healthy, allowing one run on two

ANAHEIM -- After struggling on the mound in his summer camp debut on Tuesday, Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani fared a bit better in Monday’s intrasquad action at Angel Stadium.

Ohtani, who dealt with some back stiffness after his last outing, showed that he’s healthy, allowing one run on two hits over 3 1/3 innings while throwing 60 pitches, 26 for strikes. It’s clear he’s still working on his control, as he walked eight batters on Tuesday and walked four more and hit a batter on Monday.

“It was obviously much better, performance-wise and command-wise,” Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara via Zoom. “I worked on my slide-step and got some fielding in. I feel good overall. I’m not overly concerned about the four walks. A lot of walks I was ahead in the count and I wasn’t able to locate. I need to work on my mechanics with my secondary stuff. That’s what I’ll be focusing on.”

Ohtani didn’t give up a hit until his final inning, a double to top prospect Jo Adell after walking José Briceño to open the inning. Jose Rojas brought Briceño home with a single to right but was caught in a rundown for the first out. He then walked Michael Hermosillo to end his outing. His lone strikeout came against Arismendy Alcantara to open the first inning.

“It was a little better than the last time,” Angels manager Joe Maddon said. “A little bit better command. There’s obviously a different level for him. Overall, I thought it was a better performance. I think once we get real games going on, we’ll see a different level. That guy is that good.”

Ohtani homered while serving as designated hitter on Sunday, but Maddon said that he doesn’t see Ohtani hitting the day before he pitches. Ohtani remains slated to start once a week -- most likely on Sundays --- and serve as DH roughly three to five times a week.

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Despite the back stiffness, Ohtani feels he’s handling the workload well physically and isn’t concerned with any results right now. His focus on the mound is improving his breaking pitches to put away hitters with two strikes, He’ll continue to work on that this week before his final start of Summer Camp next week.

“My body feels really good overall,” Ohtani said. “I was able to hit two straight days because my body felt good. I was able to pitch today. Physically, I’m feeling good.”

Thaiss arrives to camp
First baseman Matt Thaiss arrived at Angel Stadium for workouts on Sunday, Maddon confirmed on Monday. Thaiss was a late arrival to camp for undisclosed reasons, but now has a chance to vie for a spot on the Opening Day roster. Thaiss is competing with Jared Walsh to be the backup first baseman behind Albert Pujols.

"He looks good, feels strong,” Maddon said. “It's going to be a matter of getting his wind and getting his legs underneath him. But he was very eager yesterday. He was in the cage a lot. I got to bump elbows with him very quickly. You know him, he's one of those eager types. So it's up to him, how he could progress, go through this.”

Angels tidbits
• The Angels will switch to night games for their intrasquad action on Wednesday. The Angels are doing it to have their players get used to playing at night heading into Opening Day on July 24. Tuesday will be a lighter workout after the club’s regulars played on Sunday and Monday.

• The Angels have continued to work on situational hitting and defense, including practicing bunt defense and starting innings with a runner on second base to mimic the new rules in extra innings. They also practiced with a five-man infield with Hermosillo, an outfielder, coming in to play first base. Maddon said they’ll continue to practice different situations at the end of each inning when the regulars are on the field on defense.

• Right-handed pitching prospect Garrett Stallings was officially added to the club’s player pool over the weekend. Stallings, ranked as the club's No. 20 prospect by MLB Pipeline, was the club's fifth-round selection out of the University of Tennessee in 2019. He didn’t pitch in the Minor Leagues last year due to his heavy workload in college.

• Adell has continued to impress offensively, while David Fletcher showed off his baseball smarts again, scoring from second base on a deep fly ball to center fielder Jordyn Adams. Maddon praised both after the intrasquad game.

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