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Ohtani 'a little impatient' as he nears return

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Shohei Ohtani is now precisely seven months removed from Tommy John surgery. He has taken 32 at-bats in simulated-game environments. His timing, he said, is on point. His body "feels great."

And yet Ohtani remains on the injured list and in recovery. The Los Angeles Angels, predictably cautious with their young two-way sensation, won't reinsert him into their lineup until sometime next week, at the earliest.

"I'm pretty impatient to begin with, so I am getting a little impatient," Ohtani said through an interpreter Wednesday afternoon. "But as I get closer and closer, the more impatient I'm getting."

Ohtani won't be back in time to play in the Angels' weekend series against the Houston Astros in Mexico, a development he called "disappointing," but he could be activated later in the team's road trip, which will include stops in Detroit, Baltimore and Minnesota.

"Personally," Ohtani said, "I feel like I'm ready to go as of right now."

Ohtani -- the reigning American League Rookie of the Year after finishing 2018 with a .925 OPS and a 3.31 ERA -- will soon boost a lineup that is desperate for protection behind Mike Trout, who led the majors with 29 walks entering play Wednesday. Angels manager Brad Ausmus said the left-handed-hitting Ohtani "is going to face left-handed pitchers," alluding to an everyday role that could eventually push Albert Pujols and Justin Bour into a platoon at first base.

Ausmus estimated that Ohtani would need somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 at-bats before being activated, adding that he is "getting close."

"It's a process, and you have to get through it," Ausmus said. "I think he understands that. Players -- they want to play. That's a general rule; it's not just Shohei. We still have to go through the whole process. When you have an injury, there's a process to get back to playing. He's nearing the end of it."

Ohtani, who will only help as a designated hitter this season, said his timing is "getting better each day" and that he is "a little ahead of schedule" with his rehab. He believes last year's experience "is going to help me in every single way this year," most notably with the way he juggles his complicated schedule.

The 24-year-old has watched home games from the dugout over the past month and has paid close attention to the swings of hitters who might bat in front of and behind him in the batting order.

He is ready to move on from that.

"I'm starting to get a little tired of answering these questions," Ohtani said of inquiries about his recovery. "Hopefully next time I can answer what happened in the game."