Well, this is not entirely unexpected, but it stinks for baseball after the young phenom showed what he could do:
Shohei Ohtani underwent an MRI on his right elbow earlier today. The imaging revealed new damage to his ulnar collateral ligament (UCL). Based on these findings, UCL reconstruction surgery is the recommended plan of care. Additional information will be provided when appropriate.
— Angels (@Angels) September 5, 2018
You may recall the revelation, shortly after Ohtani chose to sign with the Angels, that he was already dealing with a partial tear in his UCL, but pitching through it effectively. Then, as the season went on, it got worse, and he was shut down. Instead of opting for Tommy John surgery, Ohtani rehabbed and then returned quickly to hitting duties. But once he returned to throwing, things went downhill within a few innings.
For now, he will continue DH’ing and then presumably have the surgery soon:
Ohtani remains in the lineup tonight and he is expected to go to Chicago for the next series. He can hit until he has surgery. And he hasn’t decided officially if or when he’ll have it. #Angels
— Jeff Fletcher (@JeffFletcherOCR) September 5, 2018
Had Ohtani had Tommy John surgery earlier this season, it was plausible he could have been pitching by the second half of 2019. Now, all of 2019 will be out on the pitching side, and I would presume he wouldn’t be hitting for a while, either.
Now knowing about Ohtani’s elbow issue – even before he signed with the Angels and passed, among other finalists, on the Cubs – it is finally much easier to understand why he signed when he did, rather than waiting two years to sign for untold riches when he was untethered to IFA rules. If he’d waited, perhaps he knew that the UCL tear he was pitching with would eventually pop, and maybe cost him everything.
It just sucks, but Ohtani is just 24. He’s got plenty of time to come back and be the two-way threat he’s shown he can be. His rookie season will finish up with a 3.31 ERA and a 29.9% K rate in 51.2 innings. On the offensive side, so far, he’s hitting .276/.355/.547 with a 147 wRC+. The guy is freaking ridiculous.