Shohei Ohtani (29-LA Angels) has been ruled out for the remainder of the season with a right elbow medial collateral ligament (UCL) injury.
Ohtani was benched for the Angels’ game against the Baltimore Orioles at Angels Stadium in Anaheim, California, on May 5 (ET). He was initially scheduled to start as the designated hitter, but he complained of pain in his right side during batting practice, leading to the decision to bench him ahead of the game.
The elbow and lateral soreness have been accompanied by growing concerns. This is even worse as he will be eligible for free agency at the end of this season.
Is this the limit for Idoryu? A question that’s been brewing since his arrival in the big leagues
Pitcher and hitter Idoru was a cartoon character. Babe Ruth was a great pitcher and hitter, but once he turned into a full-fledged home run hitter, he focused on hitting.
Ohtani is a pitcher who fulfills that expectation, and after showing promise in Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB), he donned an Angels uniform in 2018. Early on, there were certainly mixed feelings about “Idoryu Ohtani,” as he hit .285 with 22 home runs in 114 games as a first-year hitter, but as a pitcher, an injury in June ended his season after just 10 games. He continued to struggle as a hitter and underwent Tommy John surgery to repair ligaments in his elbow after the season.
The following year, he continued to hit but took a break from pitching. He returned to pitching in July 2020, but was lost for the season after just two games due to a right flexor and peroneus longus strain.
With hopes fading for Idoryu, Ohtani shocked the MLB in 2021. He went 9-2 with a 3.18 ERA in 23 starts on the mound, and he was unanimously named the American League (AL) Most Valuable Player (MVP) after batting .257 with 46 home runs and 100 RBIs. This was when Ohtani’s “cartoon baseball” really took off.
Last year, he struggled a bit as a hitter, batting .273 with 34 home runs and 95 RBIs, but this season he’s taken it a step further, going 15-9 with a 2.33 ERA. In 22 games as a pitcher, he already has 10 wins (five complete games) and a 3.17 ERA. As a hitter, he was even more complete with a .304 batting average, 44 home runs, 95 RBIs, and a 1.066 OPS.
The problem was injuries. Late last month, he went down with elbow soreness, ending his season as a pitcher. The prospect of a second surgery was high, but Ohtani decided to focus on his bat for now and continue his season.
He hadn’t hit a home run in 10 games since he was injured on April 24. To make matters worse, he missed today’s game with side pain. There is some speculation that the injury could be a result of fatigue from playing as an idol. Those who were skeptical of Ohtani’s performance as an Ichiro are now saying that he can only do so much.
Amidst the misery, there is hope: surgery may be avoided
Amidst the misfortune, there is also hope. According to MLB.com, Ohtani’s agent, Nez Valero of CCA Sports, spoke to local reporters before the Orioles’ game against the Baltimore Orioles on Friday and explained that while a Tommy John surgery is the most likely scenario, there’s a chance he could avoid surgery.
“The ligament that was repaired in 2018 hasn’t been re-injured, which is a positive,” Valero said. That’s a positive,” he said, adding that this time the injury was to another ligament in his elbow.
While surgery is still on the table, he said of Ohtani’s condition, “He’s in great shape right now. We are deeply grateful for the outpouring of love and support 안전놀이터.”
As expected, he also made it clear that he has no intention of giving up on Idoryu. “He likes to be on the mound constantly,” Valero said. There’s no doubt that he’ll come back from his injury,” Valero said, adding, “He’ll continue to do what he’s been doing for the past few years, which is hitting and pitching.”
If he is able to return to full health without further surgery, Ohtani’s value in free agency could be reassessed.
Initially, there was speculation that he could sign a mega-contract worth up to $600 million (KRW 804 million), but with the elbow injury that sidelined “Pitcher Ohtani” for the season, expectations are very mixed. Some say he’s still worth it for his bat alone, while others say his value will plummet.
“Not every team can afford to pay $500 million over 10 years, but $250 million or $300 million seems reasonable,” MLB.com wrote, adding that Ohtani’s value as a hitter is bound to decline.
Valero added that even if Ohtani had elbow surgery, he could still be a designated hitter in 2024. This raises hopes that the worst-case scenario of a season-long layoff could be avoided.
However, these are the words of an agent whose job it is to increase Ohtani’s value. It’s hard to put too much faith in it. First, we need to see how his side is doing. If it turns out to be a prolonged absence, it could cloud the view of Idoryu Ohtani even more.