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Shohei Ohtani confident he will return to mound this season

Kyodo

Two-way rookie Shohei Ohtani, who has been sidelined as a pitcher for over two months with an elbow injury, said Tuesday he is confident that he will return to the mound again this season.

“At this point I feel confident that I’ll be pitching at a time not so far off,” Ohtani said a day after facing batters for the first time since June 6.

The 24-year-old, who is recovering from a Grade 2 sprain in the ulnar collateral ligament of his pitching elbow, threw 29 pitches on Monday in a simulated game against two minor league hitters.

The right-hander said he was satisfied with his pitching variety but still intends to take his recovery step by step.

“I took a good step towards making a comeback. The most important thing is to go to the mound in the best shape, and then finish that day in the best shape,” Ohtani said.

“I could throw all kinds of pitches and my control was not bad. But I want to take it one step at a time so I don’t fall back.”

While Ohtani is expected to throw a bullpen session on Wednesday and gradually increase his intensity by next week, there is still no timetable for his return, though both he and Angels manager Mike Scioscia are hopeful that Ohtani will start again for the club this season.

“It was a heavy pen (session),” Scioscia said, according to MLB.com. “I would say he got to a full-gorilla level with some pitches, but not the whole 30-pitch bullpen.

“We will evaluate it every step along the way to see when he will be ready to go into a major league game. We’re going to get him out there before the end of the season, we hope.”

Ohtani, who is 4-1 with a 3.10 ERA in nine starts this season, landed on the disabled list on June 8 and returned to action on July 3. He has been used exclusively as a hitter since he came off the DL.