Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Angels leaves the game against the Cincinnati Reds in the second inning during game one of a doubleheader at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on August 23, 2023 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
By Leif Skodnick
World Baseball Network
It’s hard to believe, but Shohei Ohtani may have pitched in his final game as a Los Angeles Angel on Wednesday.
The sensational two-way star, who’s a near-lock to win the American League MVP, injured his ulnar collateral ligament, leaving the mound in the second inning of the first game of a doubleheader between the Angels and Cincinnati, just minutes after blasting his MLB-leading 44th home run. He won’t pitch again this season.
If you follow baseball, you know that an injury to the ulnar collateral ligament, which links the humerus, the bone of the upper arm, to the ulna, one of the two bones of the lower arm, is common among pitchers: the stress of repeated throwing often results in pitchers tearing this ligament. The most common treatment is ulnar collateral ligament replacement surgery, better known as “Tommy John” surgery, after the first Major League pitcher to resurrect his career following the procedure.
Ohtani has already had the procedure once, in 2018. The recovery time for that procedure can range from 10 months to two years.
“As far as plans and details, I don’t have those yet,” Minasian said in a news conference. “I’ve been in contact with his representation. Obviously he hit the second game. He’s played with this [injury]in ’18. But with that being said, we’ll take it day by day and see how it goes. Obviously disappointing news. I feel terrible for him.”
The club announced on Thursday, an off-day before the start of a three-game road series in New York, that Ohtani would continue to play as a designated hitter.
It’s just more bad news for the Angels, who also put Mike Trout on the Injured List with a hamate bone injury that just won’t heal. It’ll be another 10 days on the shelf for the superstar who returned just in time for the wax wings of the Angels’ playoff hopes to melt in the Southern California sun. The Angels now sit 10 ½ games out of the final wild card spot with 34 games to play in the regular season.
It’s bad news for Angels fans, too, who knew or should have known that they’d be enjoying the final season their team would put two of the best players in the game in the lineup on a daily basis. Over the past 62 years, the Angels fan base has, by and large, been starved of success. They suffered at the bat of Steve Henderson in 1986, and made their lone trip to the World Series in 2002. At least they won that one. The Angels’ run of six AL West titles over 10 years ended in 2014 and the team hasn’t reached the postseason since – just once during Trout’s career, and never during Ohtani’s.
And it’s bad news for Ohtani, who will be a free agent at the end of the season. It’s hard to say how much money this injury cost him – if he doesn’t return to form as a pitcher, he’ll still likely be able to play in the outfield or at first base – but the $500 million figure that his next contract was expected to top is likely off the table if he can’t pitch or doesn’t return to form.
Ohtani wants to win, and indicated it to The Athletic’s Andy McCullough earlier this season.
“Those feelings get stronger year by year,” Ohtani said through his interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. “It sucks to lose. [I want] to win.”
That said, even if he plays the field or becomes exclusively a designated hitter, he’s still an extraordinarily valuable player to any team. He’s compiled 19.1 oWAR (offensive Wins Above Replacement) over his six seasons with the Angels, and has been, arguably, the best player in baseball over the past three seasons.
Some team is still going to pay Ohtani money by the heap to swing the bat.
But he probably won’t be a half-billion dollar man, and he might not be an Angel when he does.