Shohei Ohtani's drives into the seats at Angel Stadium came with an audience Friday, when the Los Angeles Angels' two-way standout took another step toward his return from Tommy John surgery.
Ohtani took batting practice with teammates for the first time since the operation, preparing to return to the team this season as a designated hitter. He also threw from 90 feet for the first time, but he is not projected to pitch again until 2020 as he continues with his elbow rehabilitation following surgery Oct. 1.
The Angels have said Ohtani is expected to return to the lineup in May, although a precise date hasn't been announced.
Ohtani says his solo batting practice sessions had gotten lonely. His teammates weren't the only onlookers he was hoping to impress.
"It was more about showing the front office and the medical staff that I am healthy and feeling strong and maybe (I can) make my return early," Ohtani said through an interpreter.
Ohtani was last season's AL Rookie of the Year after hitting 22 homers and posting a 3.31 ERA over 10 starts. He says he could be ready to see live pitching in about a week and would like to travel with the Angels to Monterrey, Mexico, for a May 4-5 series against the Houston Astros.
Manager Brad Ausmus was not about to target the international trip for his power hitter's return.
"Would I like to take him to Mexico? If he's ready, I will take him to Mexico," Ausmus said. "But I don't know. I can't answer that."