Shohei Ohtani’s ‘free and easy’ bullpen session encouraging to Angels brass

Shohei Ohtani will not pitch again until next season following his elbow-ligament replacement surgery last season.
(Ben Margot / Associated Press)

Apparently one of the upsides of throwing 100 mph is being able to easily gauge where you are in rehabilitation from Tommy John surgery.

Angels two-way player Shohei Ohtani threw a high-intensity bullpen session at Fenway Park on Saturday in front of general manager Billy Eppler and manager Brad Ausmus. When he returned to the dugout, he was asked to describe how far he has ramped up his pitching.

“I hit 82 mph today,” he said through an interpreter, “So probably 82, 80%.”

Ohtani has a long way to go before he is medically cleared to return to game action. He has not even received instruction to begin working on his breaking pitches. It may be several weeks before he is allowed to face hitters in simulations.


Nonetheless, the way he let loose in the Fenway bullpen, 10 months after having his elbow surgically repaired, was encouraging.

“He looked easy and free,” Ausmus said. “He threw about 40 pitches, I think. He was good. No complaints, so that’s good.”

Ohtani will get as far as throwing 60 to 75 pitches to hitters before he is shut down for the year. He will pick back up late in the offseason, just in time to get ready for spring training and the 2020 campaign.

Thaiss makes pseudo-homecoming

When he made his Fenway Park debut Friday night, rookie Matt Thaiss had the support of a cheering section some 20-people deep.

The 24-year-old grew up a Yankees fan in Jackson, N.J., about five hours away from Boston. His parents, who hadn’t seen him play in the major leagues since he debuted in Texas last month, did not waste an opportunity to watch Thaiss play close to home.


In an alternate universe, these family trips might have occurred with more frequency. The Red Sox made a last-ditch effort to sign him as a teenager, selecting him in the 32nd round of the 2013 draft. Thaiss was considered a third- or fourth-round talent out of Jackson Memorial High School, but his strong commitment to the University of Virginia toppled him down the draft boards.

Thaiss became the Cavaliers’ starting catcher and flashed above-average power with his left-handed bat. He was in the Angels organization by summer 2016, the team’s first pick of that year’s draft.

Now an infielder afforded the chance to continue his development in the major leagues, Thaiss acknowledged he sometime wonders how his career would have gone if he had signed with Boston.

Not well, he determined.

“I don’t think I was anywhere remotely ready out of high school to do this, knowing what I know now,” he said.

Short hops

Right-hander Jaime Barria was demoted to triple-A Salt Lake on Saturday, clearing space on the 25-man roster for Andrew Heaney to be reinstated from the injured list and an eventual spot in the rotation. Barria allowed five runs in the Angels’ 16-4 loss to the Red Sox on Friday night. He has given up 21 earned runs over his last 22 1/3 innings. Ausmus said the Angels want Barria to focus on throwing his changeup more to right-handed hitters while he’s in the minor leagues. … Griffin Canning threw a successful bullpen session Saturday and could start at Angel Stadium on Tuesday or Wednesday.