Posted on September 6, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine
In a sudden twist of fate, it now appears that Los Angeles Angels pitcher and DH Shohei Ohtani may be heading on a path that ends in Tommy John surgery. The club announced Wednesday night that a recent MRI revealed new damage to Ohtani’s ulnar collateral ligament. It has not been decided for certain that Ohtani will undergo the surgery. However, the Angels have said that Tommy John is the recommended treatment.
“There’s more questions out there right now than answers. We’ll take it one step at a time,” said Angels manager Mike Scioscia. “There’s a lot of consulting that Shohei will do with doctors and just see what the best course of action is, and we’ll see where we are.”
Ohtani’s saga began in early June when he went to the DL with an elbow sprain. At that time, Tommy John surgery was considered a possibility. However, Ohtani and the Angels felt he could rehab the injury and avoid the surgery. He returned a month later as a DH while continuing his rehab as a pitcher. Ohtani finally made his return to the mound this past Sunday after nearly three months in between starts.
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In that start, Ohtani threw just 49 pitches in just 2.1 innings. There was also a noticeable dip in his velocity in the 3rd inning that the Angels were quick to say wasn’t related to his elbow. However, Ohtani reported elbow soreness on Wednesday before he was scheduled to throw a bullpen, prompting him to undergo an MRI. That scan showed damage to Ohtani’s UCL that apparently wasn’t that when he was initially shut down in June. However, while surgery has been recommended, nothing is set in stone.
“I don’t think that determination can be made until you’re at the point of getting feedback from the surgeon,” said Angels GM Billy Eppler. “That’s the first order of business here.”
Eppler added that he and Ohtani will sit down next week and determine the next step. In the meantime, Ohtani has been cleared to continue to serve as a DH. Ohtani is hitting .276 with 16 home runs and an OPS of .903. Even if it’s determined that Ohtani needs Tommy John surgery, the Angels could wait until after the season so he can continue to contribute as a DH the rest of the season.
If Ohtani ends up having Tommy John surgery, it would be a big blow for the 24-year old sensation. It would undoubtedly prevent him from pitching in 2019. Whether he could still continue to hit while recovering from Tommy John remains to be seen. Either way, it would change the way the Angels approach next offseason with regard to their starting rotation, which has been decimated by injuries over the past several years.
When healthy, Ohtani has proven that he can both pitch and hit effectively in the majors. It would be a shame to see him miss all of next season. Even serving as a full-time DH in 2019 would be a let down for one of the most exciting players in baseball. It’s important to reiterate that nothing has been decided just yet. However, it’s starting to look more and more certain that Ohtani will require Tommy John surgery.