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Shohei Ohtani ‘will resume batting practice immediately,’ says Angels’ general manager

The Japanese phenom will start a hitting program so he can return to the plate this season, if not the mound.

Texas Rangers v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Update: Billy Eppler told MLB Netowrk’s Jon Morosi that Ohtani will resume batting practice immediately as part of an official hitting progression, thanks to improvements seen in his Thursday MRI results.

Getting Ohtani back on offense for a part of this season is great news seeing as for a bit there it looked like we wouldn’t get to watch him play until at least 2019. Thank goodness for silver linings.

Shohei Ohtani has proven worthy of the hype in his rookie season — and worthy of the concern. Arm issues could keep the Japanese import from returning to the mound in 2018, but Los Angeles Angels general manager Billy Eppler is optimistic he’ll return to the plate this season.

Eppler told Sirius XM’s Jim Duquette that Ohtani could soon return to the field as a designated hitter and that he would have already been back in the Angels’ lineup if not for concerns about whether or not he’ll be able to pitch again this summer.

Ohtani hasn’t played since leaving a June 7 start due to a blister on the middle finger of his throwing hand. One day later, he was placed on the disabled list due to a Grade 2 UCL sprain — an injury that often precedes Tommy John surgery. Ohtani’s been handled with caution in the weeks since, hoping rehabilitation could keep him from going under the knife and dealing with the 14-month recovery time that follows.

Getting the dynamic rookie back would be a boon for Los Angeles no matter where he plays. Ohtani was electric over his first nine starts in the majors, striking out 61 batters in 49.1 innings while posting a 3.10 ERA. He was similarly impressive at the plate; in 126 at-bats, he had six home runs and 20 RBI while batting .289.

Returning him to the middle of the lineup would boost an offense that’s struggled to support Mike Trout in a historic season. The former AL MVP is on pace for the most valuable season in MLB history, but the Angels have just a 41-39 record to show for it. They’re currently 11.5 games back of the AL West-leading Houston Astros.

Los Angeles isn’t yet out of the postseason race, but the club needs support to make a rally and will need bats to get there. The Angels rank just seventh in the American League in runs per game and eighth in team batting average. Bringing a big-swinging home run threat like Ohtani back to the batting order would be a major boost to the team’s playoff hopes — even if they are eight games out of a wild card spot.