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Angels

Angels’ Shohei Ohtani feels like he ‘can get back this month’

FILE - In this Feb. 13, 2019, file photo, Los Angeles Angels’ Shohei Ohtani, recovering from Tommy J
Shohei Ohtani, recovering from Tommy John surgery, talks to the media at their spring baseball training facility in Tempe, Ariz on Feb. 13, 2019.
(Chris Carlson / Associated Press)

Two-way player Shohei Ohtani has spent only a week hitting on the field at Angel Stadium, but he said Thursday he already feels like he’s hitting with better power than he did last year, when he belted 22 home runs and was named the American League rookie of the year.

Every swing Ohtani takes puts him closer to returning to the Angels’ lineup, which has flailed without him and outfielder Justin Upton in the middle of the batting order.

“Personally, I feel like I can get back this month,” Ohtani said.

The Angels won’t be that aggressive. The team has said since February that Ohtani, who had the ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing elbow replaced in October, will not be ready to hit in the major leagues until May. Asked last week if Ohtani’s latest step would speed up that timeline, general manager Billy Eppler said he didn’t think it would. Ohtani’s progress is in line with the schedule the team and medical staff set up for him.

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All Ohtani has left to do in his hitting rehab is face live pitching. A checkup with doctors soon, Ohtani said, will determine when he can advance to that stage.

“As a player I think it’s natural to want to get back as early as possible,” Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. “That’s how I’m feeling right now. But also it’s going to be ultimately up to the team and the front office.

“I know they’re trying to be really careful with me. I understand that. Just need to work things out with them.”

The Angels haven’t indicated how Ohtani will get the at-bats he needs before his 2019 debut. They can send him on a minor league rehab assignment or choose to have pitchers from their own organization pitch to him in a controlled environment. The Angels chose the latter option last June when Ohtani was cleared to hit following a three-week break caused by elbow ligament damage. He needed just five days of hitting, in batting practice and against pitchers, before he was back in the Angels’ lineup.

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The number of at-bats he needs will be determined based on his progress.

“My best guess right now is I wouldn’t need too much time,” Ohtani said.

Simmons makes an early exit

Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons was removed from Thursday’s game against the Texas Rangers after the second inning due to tightness in his lower back. Simmons struck out with the bases loaded and no outs in the first inning. He was not involved in any defensive plays.

Ausmus said after the game that Simmons was going to get imaging done Friday morning.

Simmons, like the rest of the Angels, has struggled at the plate. He 4 for 24 with four strikeouts and one walk.

“I don’t think it’s that serious,” he said.

Short hops

Right-hander Nick Tropeano, whose spring training was compromised by setbacks caused by lingering soreness in his shoulder, threw a 40-pitch bullpen Thursday. He said he will throw batting practice at the Angels’ training facility in Tempe, Ariz., on Sunday or Monday. He previously targeted April for his return to the major leagues.

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maria.torres@latimes.com

@maria_torres3


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