Photo: Jayne Kamin-Oncea (Getty)

Shohei Ohtani has been having a ho-hum season as a hitter, entering Thursday batting .256 with a mediocre .775 OPS in 133 plate appearances, with seven home runs and just eight total extra base hits. The good news is, his power seems to be picking up. Ohtani has now socked five homers in his last nine games, including one in each of his last four starts. Thursday night’s dinger was a scorched three-run rocket to left center, the kind of thing that takes mighty opposite field muscles. I can hear you crying out for the dinger, pathetically, like a helpless little baby bird when its mother returns to the nest. Disgusting.

The real good news comes from Angels manager Brad Ausmus, by way of MLB.com reporter Dawn Klemish. Ohtani is reportedly perhaps just weeks away from throwing off a mound for the first time since September, which is a milestone on his path to recovery from Tommy John surgery, which he underwent back in October:

“He’s getting close,” manager Brad Ausmus confirmed Thursday, prior to the Halos’ opener against the Rays at Tropicana Field. “I don’t know the exact date … but I would say weeks, assuming everything goes well.”

[...]

Will he be on the mound before the All-Star break?

“I don’t want to say it’s probable,” Ausmus said. “But it’s possible.”

The rehabilitation process is long, and throwing off a mound isn’t the same thing as throwing off a mound in a game. Ohtani the dominant pitcher is still expected to miss the entire 2019 season, even as Ohtani the slugger continues to round into form. But it’s nice to be reminded that one of the most exciting players in the sport is well on his way to a full recovery, and eventually returning to the game as baseball’s version of a unicorn. And, sure, in the meantime, the dingers are pretty nice.

Advertisement

UPDATE: Ohtani hit for the cycle Thursday night, finishing 4-for-4 with three runs batted in.