TEMPE, Ariz. -- Despite knowing he won't be ready for Opening Day after undergoing Tommy John surgery on May 1, Shohei Ohtani was upbeat and optimistic while talking to a large group of reporters after the first day of official workouts for Angels pitchers and catchers on Wednesday.Ohtani, who is
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Despite knowing he won't be ready for Opening Day after undergoing Tommy John surgery on May 1, Shohei Ohtani was upbeat and optimistic while talking to a large group of reporters after the first day of official workouts for Angels pitchers and catchers on Wednesday.
Ohtani, who is aiming for a return in May as a designated hitter but won't pitch in 2019, isn't able to participate in the on-field workouts with his teammates, but has progressed to swinging the bat and working out indoors.
"So far there is nothing in my elbow," Ohtani said through his interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara. "I don't feel anything there. It's going great. I just need to watch my effort level, try to keep it down and listen to the trainers."
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Ohtani, the reigning American League Rookie of the Year, also said that he has no regrets about the timing of his surgery, which came nearly a month after he was diagnosed with a torn ulnar collateral ligament that needed surgery. Ohtani continued to serve as a DH in September and underwent the operation after the season, which will keep him from being ready for the start of the 2019 campaign.
"I knew that was a possibility, that I might not make it by Opening Day, but I feel like last year when the doctor told me I needed Tommy John, I was swinging the bat really well, seeing the ball really well so I wanted to get that experience level and finish out the season," Ohtani said. "I think ultimately, that's going to help out this season. I might miss the first month, but I think in the long run it's going to help out myself and the team."
Ohtani, 23, finished the season strong as a hitter, helping him put up a.285/.361/.564 line with 22 homers, 21 doubles and 61 RBIs in 114 games as a DH. He also went 4-2 with a 3.31 ERA and 63 strikeouts in 51 2/3 innings in 10 appearances as a starting pitcher. He became the first player since Babe Ruth to hit 20 homers and make 10 pitching appearances in a season.
This spring, he'll continue his hitting program, and his next step will be hitting off a tee. From there, he'll progress to soft toss, batting practice and then will face live pitching. There's still no official timeline for when he'll start his throwing program.
The Angels, though, will remain cautious with Ohtani, as they don't want him to suffer any setbacks that could delay his return as a hitter this season or jeopardize his pitching plans for 2020. He said he's excited to get back on the field, but that patience will be key.
"This season I'm obviously going to be prioritizing my hitting, so that's what I'm gonna focus on right now," Ohtani said. "We can push back the pitching a little because I am not going to be pitching this season. So the plan is to try to take on hitting first and take it easy on the pitching side."
• Right-hander Nick Tropeano, who was expected to compete for the fifth spot in the rotation, had a setback with his right shoulder this offseason and isn't expected to be ready for Opening Day. Manager Brad Ausmus said Tropeano will be behind the other pitchers with his throwing program.
• Right-hander Alex Meyer underwent arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder during the offseason and has yet to start throwing again. There's no timeline for the return of Meyer, who remained with the organization on a Minor League deal.
• Angels pitchers began throwing bullpen sessions in front of new pitching coach Doug White and Ausmus on Wednesday. The club installed rapsodo devices to be able to track data such as spin rates from their pitchers as they throw their bullpens.
Rhett Bollinger covers the Angels for MLB.com. He previously covered the Twins from 2011-18. Follow him on Twitter @RhettBollinger and Facebook.