Los Angeles Angels pitcher and designated hitter Shohei Ohtani, the clear front-runner for the 2023 AL MVP award, has a torn ulnar collateral ligament, the Angels announced Wednesday night. He will not pitch again this season.
Ohtani previously tore the UCL in his right arm in 2018 and recovered from Tommy John surgery to become one of the best players in baseball, and its most successful two-way star ever.
“A tough day for him,” Angels GM Perry Minasian said. “Tough day for all of us.”
The injury could have a massive effect on baseball’s free-agent market this winter, with the 29-year-old Ohtani headed to unrestricted free agency. The uniquely valuable player was expected to receive the most lucrative contract offers in baseball history after six landmark seasons with the Angels, but now much will depend on the health of his pitching elbow.
“If I was to bet on anybody bouncing back, he would be the guy,” said Minasian, who didn’t know the grade of Ohtani’s ligament tear.
Ohtani, who bats left-handed, is the major-league leader with 44 homers after connecting in the first game of the doubleheader Wednesday. He has 10 wins with a 3.14 ERA on the mound.
Ohtani left the mound in the middle of an at-bat during the second inning, feeling what the Angels called arm fatigue. Postgame tests revealed the right-hander has a ligament tear nearly five years after he had Tommy John surgery on his pitching elbow.
Ohtani, who homered in the first inning of the opener, told the Angels he wanted to play in the nightcap. Ohtani served as the Angels’ designated hitter for much of the 2019 season after having Tommy John surgery following his rookie stateside campaign in 2018.
The Angels also announced Wednesday that superstar outfielder Mike Trout would return to the injured list.
Minasian isn’t sure whether Ohtani will continue to serve as the Angels designated hitter.
“I think he needs time to wrap his head around it, talk to the people close to him,” Minasian said. “We’re in the process of getting second opinions. Once the information is there, he’ll make the right decision on what he wants to do, and we’ll support him, whatever he decides. … I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s in New York, and he’s in the lineup. I know how bad he wants to play.”
Ohtani skipped his previous turn in the rotation last week to rest his arm late in a long summer. Ohtani’s velocity was down across the board Wednesday while he faced the Reds’ first six batters, although he sometimes ramps up his pitching speeds gradually in the opening innings.
Ohtani had a 2-2 count on Cincinnati third baseman Christian Encarnacion-Strand when the Angels’ training staff came out to check on him following a 94-mph fastball. Ohtani headed off the mound after a brief discussion, having thrown just 26 pitches.
“In the second (inning, Ohtani’s velocity) was down,” manager Phil Nevin said. “I was noticing the shapes on his pitches just weren’t the same, and I just saw a look after a pitch, so I decided to go out there and check on him.”
Ohtani is almost certain to win his second AL MVP award in three seasons after another standout two-way campaign. His two-run homer gave him 91 RBIs and broke his tie with Atlanta’s Matt Olson atop the homer standings.
Ohtani was back in the Angels’ lineup for the nightcap as their designated hitter. The two-way superstar has missed only two games all season, none since May 2.
Nevin said Ohtani told him that his pitching arm “just didn’t feel right.”
“He told me he didn’t feel any pain,” Nevin said after the Angels’ 9-4 loss. “It was just more of the same thing he’s been feeling for the last couple of weeks.”
Ohtani has struggled with blisters, cramps and other minor injuries to his pitching hand, but he had pitched through them while continuing to play every day at DH. Ohtani has rarely let pitching injuries stop him from hitting for the Angels, even playing 106 games in 2019 as the Angels’ DH while he was recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Ohtani left the mound early with pain from blisters or a cracked fingernail in three straight starts earlier this summer, although he pitched at least five innings each time. He then left the mound after four scoreless innings against Seattle on Aug. 3 because of cramping in his hand and fingers.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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