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Angels' Shohei Ohtani expected to start hitting balls flipped to him 'very soon'

Angels' Shohei Ohtani expected to start hitting balls flipped to him 'very soon'
Shohei Ohtani (Jamie Squire / Getty Images)

Shohei Ohtani is expected to begin hitting pitches flipped to him by a coach in the batting cages at Tempe Diablo Stadium “very soon,” Angels manager Brad Ausmus said Thursday morning.

“He’s getting close,” Ausmus said.

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Ohtani, the two-way player who will be limited to hitting in the major leagues this season, began to hit baseballs off a tee for the first time since offseason elbow ligament replacement surgery six days ago. He has increased the number of swings incrementally by day. He has also stood in for pitchers throwing bullpen sessions so he can work on his timing at the plate.

All signs point to Ohtani being able to hit live pitching sooner than later.

The Angels’ timeline for Ohtani’s return has always been conservative. The Angels fear pushing their two-way star too quickly because they do not know how a setback on the hitting side could affect his eventual return as a pitcher.

But Ohtani has hit every benchmark in his rehab on time, if not ahead of schedule. He could realistically reach the next step of his rehab in the coming days.

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