ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA - Shohei Ohtani resumed pitching practice on Saturday after more than two months of rest, mixing curveballs and sliders into a total of 23 pitches during a light bullpen session before the Los Angeles Angels’ game against the Oakland Athletics.
It was Ohtani’s first time throwing off the mound since June 6, a day before the Japanese right-hander received stem cell and platelet-rich plasma injections to treat a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow.
He said it is now a matter of monitoring his body before deciding the next step.
“First of all, I’ve finished today, the first day, in good shape,” Ohtani said. “The (rehabilitation) plan will be adjusted. From tomorrow, we’ll either move forward or take a step back. We’ll see how I’m responding each and every day.
“I was throwing at about 70 percent full strength, making sure everything was okay overall. I wanted to see about my fastballs first, and when that went well I wanted to throw some breaking pitches.”
Ohtani had spent a month on the disabled list before returning as a hitter on July 3, and playing catch two weeks later. Angels’ manager Mike Scioscia said the 24-year-old rookie will continue at a pace dictated by the club’s medical staff.
“We want to make sure that he’s continuing to move forward, and then you evaluate him afterwards and see if there’s anything that would have to make you adjust the schedule,” Scioscia said, according to MLB.com.
“Right now, there hasn’t been any adjustments. He’s been terrific. I think that he’s feeling very, very comfortable with the fact that everything is sound in his elbow. As we continue to test it moving forward in the next couple of weeks, we’ll get a better idea of exactly where he is.”
It is still unclear whether Ohtani, who has already hit one of his two-way goals after surpassing 10 home runs, will pitch again this year, with 44 games remaining in the regular season.
“All of these injuries will heal in their own time. We will take it one step at a time. I do think that it is important for a pitcher, coming out of this season, to know they’re healthy. It gives them, I think, a leg up in the winter, and then going into Spring Training, they’re ready to go,” Scioscia said.
Ohtani’s compatriot, New York Yankees’ right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, received similar treatment in 2014 and returned to the mound about a month after resuming pitching practice.
In his first season in the majors, Ohtani is 4-1 in nine starts with 61 strikeouts and a 3.10 ERA.
“Because we’re into the summer now, I could tell that my feel was just a little off,” Ohtani said. “With things like that, I now want to just start over from scratch.”
Later Saturday, Ohtani went 1-for-4 in the Angels’ 7-0 loss against the Athletics. He singled to lead off the ninth inning but was stranded on third base as the visitors completed the shutout to snap the Los Angeles team’s four-game win streak.
Angels’ lefty Tyler Skaggs (8-8) gave up seven runs on 10 hits, while Oakland right-hander Edwin Jackson (4-2) fanned five and threw three-hit ball over seven scoreless innings.
Before the game, Ohtani was batting .273 with 12 home runs, 32 RBIs and five stolen bases.