ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Shohei Ohtani threw off a mound Wednesday for the first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery, taking another significant step in his return to pitching for the Los Angeles Angels next season.
About four hours after Ohtani threw 40 pitches off a mound and made 70 additional throws on flat ground at Angel Stadium, he was in Los Angeles’ lineup as the designated hitter against Cincinnati.
“I felt really comfortable,” Ohtani said through a translator. “It felt good to get up on there again.”
Ohtani will not pitch for the Angels until 2020, manager Brad Ausmus confirmed once again.
But the team and its two-way star believe everything is progressing perfectly toward Ohtani’s plan to resume his two-way career next season.
Ohtani had elbow ligament replacement surgery Oct. 1, and his rehabilitation has gone remarkably smoothly, even while he continues racking up impressive numbers as the Angels’ designated hitter.
“Mentally, I think I have it a little bit better because I’ve been playing every day as a hitter,” Ohtani said. “I think that helps me get through it a little better than other people that can’t play.”
The AL Rookie of the Year returned to the Angels’ lineup May 7, and he has been an everyday contributor at the plate while building his arm strength before games.
Ohtani is batting .277 with nine homers, 31 RBIs and a .829 OPS in 42 games this season. He became the first Japanese-born player to hit for the cycle in the majors on June 13 at Tampa Bay.
Ohtani said he tried to throw off the mound at about 50 percent of his full strength, in accordance with his rehab plan. Most of his throws from the mound were with the catcher standing up, but he still went through his pitching motion fairly effectively.
“He looked great,” Angels pitching coach Doug White said. “It’s very low intensity … but he always knows what he wants to do. He always knows how he wants it to feel, and the process in which he’s going to get it done. It’s nice to see.”
Ohtani is expected to go through the same throwing workout Saturday, White said.
Ohtani went 4-2 with a 3.31 ERA and 63 strikeouts in 10 starts as a rookie for the Angels, but pitched just once after June 6. He also hit 22 homers and drove in 61 runs with a .925 OPS.
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