American League rookie of the year Shohei Ohtani said Saturday that he felt good after two consecutive days hitting off a tee. He had not done so since before elbow ligament-replacement surgery in October.
Ohtani, who will serve only as the Angels’ designated hitter this season, said he would like to advance in the next week to hitting pitches flipped to him by a coach.
“I’m excited to move toward that,” Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara.
The development would be a welcome one for the Angels, who entered camp tempering their expectations for Ohtani’s return. Manager Brad Ausmus said Ohtani would not be ready to hit in the major leagues until May at the earliest, and has continued to stick by that timeline.
“We are not going to risk his long-term success as a pitcher and a hitter just to speed him up off the tee or soft toss right now,” Ausmus said. “It’s just not in the plan. He’ll move to the next step when all parties think he’s ready to move to the next step.”
However, Ohtani could be ready to rejoin the Angels lineup in April if he advances through his rehab program within the next four weeks.
Kaleb Cowart returns
Midway through the Angels’ victory over the San Francisco Giants on Saturday in a Cactus League opener, the clubhouse staff rolled in a new portable locker into Tempe Diablo Stadium for two-way player Kaleb Cowart.
Cowart, the Angels’ first-round draft pick in 2010, was reacquired Saturday by the Angels, about two months after he was exposed to waivers and claimed by the Seattle Mariners. He reported to Florida for spring training with the Detroit Tigers two weeks ago, but he wound up designated for assignment and claimed off waivers for the third time since the end of the 2018 season.
The Angels lost the switch-hitting infielder in December, soon after deciding he would spend 2019 playing in the minor leagues as a pitcher and fielder. They tried to sneak him through waivers but were thwarted by a division rival led by former Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto. The Mariners intended to follow the Angels’ plan. But a roster crunch forced Dipoto, who considered moving Cowart back to the mound a few years ago, to relinquish control of Cowart.
Cowart, a standout right-handed pitcher in high school, will report to Tempe as a two-way utility player. It may be a few days before he arrives; he was in Lakeland, Fla., with the Tigers when he was designated for assignment on Saturday to make room for the team’s acquisition of Josh Harrison.