The Los Angeles Angels have already lost Shohei Ohtani as a pitcher for the remainder of the 2023 season as he figures out next steps with a tear in his UCL. His status as a hitter was put into doubt when he was scratched from Monday’s lineup with an oblique issue and was kept on the bench by manager Phil Nevin on Tuesday.
Both of these items add a wrinkle to what was already expected to be one of the fascinating free agency periods in Major League history. The question, for a time, was how much Ohtani could earn coming off of two American League MVP awards in three years with elite seasons at the plate and on the mound.
While those factors may still be true, his injuries — and how long they’ll hold him off of the mound and the plate — figure to be a major determining factor.
Ohtani’s agent, Nez Balelo, spoke to the media on Monday to respond to a number of questions and concerns regarding Ohtani’s injuries and his future. Balelo, while still unsure about exactly what type of surgery or recovery time Ohtani is looking at on the mound, had no doubts about his ability to hit, according to Sam Blum of The Athletic:
But I do know this: No matter what timetable we’re doing this and when we get this done, Shohei is going to be in somebody’s lineup next year DHing when the bell rings. We know that. We’re not going to push that. He’s going to be good to go. That’s where it’s at.
Balelo also said that Ohtani may be able to continue hitting this season, but that no matter what is decided, the goal is to be ready to hit at the start of next season.
With all the consulting that we’ve been doing with doctors, Shohei, there’s not one thing that he can’t do when it comes to DHing. He can lift. He can run. He can slide. He can hit. He can take violent swings. He can do anything he wants right now. It doesn’t affect the problem in question. So we’re good. Whatever we decide to get done, we have to take it into consideration next year. The way that the timetable is going to play out, he’s going to be fine when the bell rings in 2024.
Of course, Ohtani’s agent is going to remain as positive as possible so as not to harm his value as a free agent. But the coming days will be telling with regard to the severity of his injuries.
Surgery looking inevitable for Ohtani
It may not be Tommy John surgery, but it appears that Ohtani is going to undergo some type of procedure on the tear in his UCL. Ohtani’s agent confirmed that it is a different injury than 2018 when he required Tommy John surgery, meaning it’s possible the operation could be different and carry a shorter recovery window.