Ohtani plays catch for first time since tendon surgery

Los Angeles (AFP) –


Los Angeles Angels pitching and batting sensation Shohei Ohtani played catch Friday for the first time since undergoing "Tommy John" tendon replacement surgery last October, the Major League Baseball club said.

The 24-year-old Japanese right-hander will not take the mound again until 2020 following the operation, but will serve as a designated hitter this season for the Angels, who went 80-82 last year.

One of his first steps down the road to recovery came Friday at the team's pre-season training complex in Tempe, Arizona, where Ohtani made soft tosses in a 12-minute test session for his arm, making 20 tosses of 20 feet, 30 more gradually increasing to 40 feet and 10 final tosses to ease out of the exercise.

"We're taking it day to day," Angels manager Brad Ausmus said. "Make sure he feels all right. Very light throwing today. Short, in terms of distance."

To work on his form with the bat, Ohtani has been hitting soft tosses in batting cages and the team remains confident he could begin playing as a designated hitter at some point in May.

But Ausmus said Ohtani's batting workload will decrease as he goes deeper into his pitching rehabilitation work.

Ohtani played five seasons for the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters before leaving after the 2017 season for North American baseball, where excitement built as he showed his ability to pitch and bat well.

Ohtani hit .285 with 22 home runs, 10 stolen bases and 61 runs batted in for the Angels last season while making 10 starts as a pitcher, going 4-2 with a 3.31 earned-run average and 63 strikeouts.

In addition to winning the 2018 American League Rookie of the Year award, Ohtani joined Babe Ruth, a baseball legend from a century earlier, as the only players in major league history with 20 homers and 10 pitching starts in a season.