Angels' Ohtani progressing, won't be ready for opening day

AL Rookie of the Year Shohei Ohtani has been medically cleared to resume full strength training on his right arm following Tommy John surgery, although he will not be ready to hit for the Los Angeles Angels by opening day.

Angels general manager Billy Eppler provided a positive update Thursday on the recovery of his two-way star, who had surgery Oct. 1.

The Angels expect Ohtani to be their designated hitter at some point in 2019, but he will not be active when the Angels open the regular season in late March, Eppler says. Ohtani is not expected to pitch again until 2020.

"It's clear to us that the timing of his progression will not allow him to be active for opening day," Eppler said. "Anything beyond that, I cannot answer at this time, because it's a multilayered progression that he has to go through. To pinpoint a time is unrealistic."

Ohtani's latest appointment with Dr. Neal El Attrache "went really well," according to Eppler. Ohtani was cleared to begin weight training Friday as the right-hander rebuilds strength on his right side.

Ohtani had already begun lower-body conditioning, Eppler said. When his upper-body strength returns to an acceptable level, which typically occurs after a few weeks of weight training, he will be cleared to take dry swings.

Ohtani will report to the Angels' spring training camp in Tempe, Arizona, before their first workout for pitchers and catchers on Feb. 13. He will participate in camp, but only in his current rehab program.

"He'll be doing what he's been medically cleared to do," Eppler said.

During his dynamic rookie year in the majors, Ohtani batted .285 with 22 homers and 61 RBIs in just 367 plate appearances while going 4-2 with a 3.31 ERA and 63 strikeouts over 10 pitching starts.

Eppler declined to speculate on the length of Ohtani's current conditioning stretch, or when he will return to any phase of hitting. Ohtani is attempting a unique recovery from Tommy John surgery as he tries to continue his hitting career while resting his pitching arm for the customary length of elbow ligament replacement rehabilitation.

Eppler also gave an encouraging update on first baseman Albert Pujols, who hasn't played since having surgery on his left knee in late August. The three-time NL MVP has been hitting "for a while now," Eppler said, and has increased his weight training.

"We're very optimistic that the next stage for him is when we get out on the field and start moving around a little bit more, and then incorporating at-bats in games," Eppler said.

The 39-year-old Pujols has three years remaining on his $240 million contract. He batted .245 last season with 19 homers, putting him sixth in baseball history with 633 homers heading into this year.


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