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Shohei Ohtani is ‘likely to return as a hitter no matter what,’ Angels’ general manager says

The Angels hope to find out Thursday that Shohei Ohtani can return as a hitter, even if his ailing ulnar collateral ligament isn’t ready for him to resume a pitching progression.

In a text, general manager Billy Eppler said the rookie “likely” will be back in the lineup at some point if he receives medical clearance when he is examined in Southern California.

Ohtani has been out since June 6 because of a Grade 2 sprain of his right UCL.

He received plasma-rich platelet and stem cell injections June 7. The latest tests will determine the effectiveness of this more conservative approach to treatment. Ohtani still could eventually face ligament replacement surgery.

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As a designated hitter, though, his more immediate return could help bolster a lineup that has been struggling to score runs as the Angels attempt to remain in contention in the American League wild-card race.

At the time Ohtani was placed on the disabled list, Eppler said doctors indicated he “probably” could have continued playing were he strictly a designated hitter.

Ohtani has been swinging one-handed and tracking pitches recently to ease his transition back into hitting.

Shohei Ohtani has been out since June 6 because of what has been diagnosed as a grade 2 sprain of his right ulnar collateral ligament.
(Jayne Kamin-Oncea / Getty Images )

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In an interview with MLB Network Radio on Wednesday, Eppler reiterated that Dr. Steve Yoon could OK Ohtani’s use as a DH as long as test results indicate such a move is medically sound.

“I understand that he would clear him to be able to hit,” Eppler said, “if he sees the ligament’s in good shape and has, in fact, scarred down.”

If so, Ohtani would then start working his way back into position to hit in the big leagues while the Angels continue monitoring the progress of his UCL as it relates to pitching.

Eppler explained that the Angels decided to take the injection route in hopes Ohtani could return as a pitcher this season, too. That possibility, pending the results Thursday, remains in place.

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Although the Angels, beset by injuries, could use Ohtani in their starting rotation, just getting half of him back would be a significant development given their troubles of late.

The Angels (41-40) lost their fifth straight game Wednesday, 9-6 to Boston.

Over their previous five games, the Angels were hitting .185 and had scored 10 runs.

Although Ohtani provided several memorable moments offensively during the season’s first two months, he had cooled before going on the disabled list.

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In his last 13 games, he is eight for 41 with one homer and four RBIs. During that time, his average has fallen from .342 to .289.

Richards improving

Garrett Richards (hamstring) threw a bullpen session Wednesday in Anaheim and reported no problems. He appears to be in line to make a rehabilitation start next. Richards could rejoin the rotation after that or make a second rehab start.

Lamb placed on DL

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Starter John Lamb (shoulder and elbow inflammation) was placed on the 10-day disabled list a day after he retired only five batters in a 9-1 loss to Boston.

Deck McGuire will start in Lamb’s place Sunday in Baltimore. McGuire will be the Angels’ 12th starter this season. … Reliever Jake Jewell and infielder Nolan Fontana were recalled from triple-A Salt Lake. Reliever Akeel Morris was optioned down.

jeff.miller@latimes.com

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