Shohei Ohtani has been cleared to start hitting immediately

Time to get this Sho on the road!

Shohei Ohtani has officially been cleared to return to hitting activities starting immediately, Angels general manager Billy Eppler announced Thursday.

Ohtani, who was placed on the 10-day disabled list with a grade 2 UCL sprain in his pitching arm June 8, had an MRI Thursday morning that showed improvement to the ligament leading doctors to believe the way he swings the bat will not put a dangerous load on his arm. Eppler says Ohtani has multiple batting practice sessions already scheduled for Thursday and Friday and ShoTime’s rehab progression will take place in a completely private and controlled environment, rather than a traditional minor league stint approach.

“We can control a bit more of the progression. When players play in rehabilitation games, they are bound by the rules of game now,” Eppler said. “This allows for more freedom, more structure and more control. The fact he does not have to play a position, play defense, allows us to do such a progression in a controlled setting.”

Prior to landing on the disabled list, Ohtani was shinning both at the plate and on the mound for the Halos. The left-handed hitter was batting .289 with six homers and 20 RBI, while carrying a 4-1 record to go along with a 3.10 ERA in nine starts as a right-handed pitcher. ShoTime also struck out 61 over his 49 1/3 innings. When asked if Ohtani will be able to pitch again this season, Eppler responded, “right now he is cleared to hit and we will update you in three weeks.”

Eppler also noted that “no doctor has told me that Shohei needs surgical intervention at this time.” Many pitchers with similar UCL injuries are forced to undergo Tommy John surgery to repair the ligament with a recovery time of at least 12 months, so Eppler’s reassurance that the plasma-rich platelet (PRP) injection is healing the ligament on its own should allow a slight sigh of relief for Angels fans.

“He has been an important part of our club, both on the mound and in the batter’s box. To hear that he’s able to take the next step to rejoin our club, that’s news I was hoping to hear and we did,” Eppler said. “I know that not being able to play baseball competitively and only being able to train does not really satisfy his appetite and hunger to play. He’s now one step closer. I can only assume he’s excited about it.”

Eppler said Ohtani has a follow up assessment set for three weeks where they hope to learn more about the healing and his return to pitching. The MLB All-Star Game, where Ohtani is currently in fourth place as the American League’s DH, is July 17.