Grant Balfour is already throwing 15 days after knee surgery

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Grant Balfour returned to the mound with a bullpen session today just two weeks after undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee.

That’s ahead of schedule and Casey Pratt of CSNBayArea.com reports that the A’s seem optimistic about Balfour’s chances of returning to game action before the initial 4-6 week timetable. In other words, the A’s closer might be on the active roster for Opening Day.

Before that happens he’ll have to avoid any setbacks while facing live hitters in batting practice, but so far so good.

Watch: Shohei Ohtani strikes out his first spring training batter

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Sure, spring training games don’t count toward anything “real,” but that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy Angels’ star pitcher/hitter Shohei Ohtani mowing down his first big league competitors.

On Saturday, Ohtani took the mound against the Brewers for his first official outing in an Angels uniform. After allowing a leadoff double to Jonathan Villar, the 23-year-old righty settled down and issued a three-pitch strikeout to Nate Orf, his first of the spring.

It wasn’t the cleanest inning for the right-hander: the Brewers plated their first run on a walk, wild pitch and subsequent throwing error by catcher Martin Maldonado. Ohtani didn’t let things unravel further, however, and induced a pop-up for the second out before catching Brett Phillips looking on a called strike three to end the inning.

While the two-way phenom only lasted another two batters (a Keon Broxton dinger finished him off in the second), he’s already started to look like a formidable presence on the mound. Time will tell whether he can deliver at the plate as well — rumor has it he could feature in the Angels’ lineup as soon as Monday.