July 21, 2018 / 8:05 PM / 2 years ago

Angels' Scioscia 'encouraged' as Ohtani begins throwing

Los Angeles Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani threw from 60 feet and played catch a day after being cleared to resume throwing following a six-week checkup on the sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.

Jul 20, 2018; Anaheim, CA, USA; Los Angeles Angels designated hitter Shohei Ohtani (17) looks on after a strike during the fifth inning against the Houston Astros at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

“We’re very happy,” manager Mike Scioscia told reporters Friday. “We’re excited about him being able to throw. Hopefully he’ll start that journey to get back to pitching for us. I think we’re encouraged with this step, but there’s obviously some hurdles he’s going to have to get over before he’s throwing in a game. Hopefully we’ll continue to get good news as he moves through his progression.”

Ohtani, who pitches right-handed, went on the disabled list June 8 with a Grade 2 sprain of his right UCL. He returned to action on July 3, but only as a designated hitter. At the time of Ohtani’s reactivation, general manager Billy Eppler said it would still be three weeks before Ohtani would be re-evaluated with regard to his ability to pitch.

At the time, Eppler would not say whether or not Ohtani would pitch again this season, but he maintained the team’s optimism that Tommy John surgery — which would likely sideline Ohtani until 2020 — would not be needed.

Scioscia reiterated that mindset Friday.

“It’s very tough to foresee the future,” he said, “but we do anticipate him pitching for us this year if everything with his rehab goes as planned.”

If the Angels do get Ohtani close to rehab starts, they could have him throw simulated games instead of sending him to the minors, which would require a DL stint.

“It’s going to require some creativity,” Eppler said Friday.

“We just need to do what’s best for the player. If it lends itself to him making starts here, great. If it takes longer, then it takes longer. We just have to stay flexible.”

Ohtani, 24, is 4-1 with a 3.10 ERA in nine starts as a pitcher this season and has struck out 61 batters in 49 1/3 innings. He also is batting .277 with seven home runs and 22 RBIs in 45 games after striking out in all three of his at-bats against the Houston Astros on Friday.

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