Angels right-hander/slugger Shohei Ohtani has progressed to long tossing from a distance of 180 feet and is following those sessions up with higher-intensity throws from 60 feet, pitching coach Mickey Callaway told reporters on Tuesday (Twitter links via Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register and Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com). The next step for the righty would be to throw off a mound, and while Callaway didn’t put a specific timetable on when that might happen, he noted that it should be “soon.”
Ohtani, 25, hasn’t pitched in a game since Sept. 2, 2018, due to Tommy John surgery that wiped out his entire 2019 campaign — at least on the mound. He, of course, was able to return as the team’s primary designated hitter for much of the season and turned in a generally excellent year, hitting .286/.343/.505 with 18 home runs and a dozen steals in 425 plate appearances.
To this point, it seems as though things are generally on track with expectations put forth just prior to camp. At the time, it was believed that the Angels had been targeting a mid-May return to the big league rotation for the two-way star, and a move to mound sessions in the near future seemingly keeps him on that timeline. With fellow righty Griffin Canning resuming a throwing program after a UCL scare of his own, the Angels are trending in the direction of a full-strength rotation featuring Ohtani, Canning, Andrew Heaney, Julio Teheran and Dylan Bundy to begin the year.
Ohtani has still started just 10 games in his MLB career, although the 51 2/3 innings he tossed were quite promising. During that time, he logged a 3.31 ERA with 11.0 K/9, 3.8 BB/9, 1.05 HR/9 and a 39.2 percent ground-ball rate. Ohtani also turned in a stellar 15.2 percent swinging-strike rate that trailed only Max Scherzer, Chris Sale and Patrick Corbin among starters with at least 50 innings pitched.