Orange County got a little more depressing on Friday – the Los Angeles Angels (who, as a quick reminder, play in Anaheim, in Orange County, nowhere near Los Angeles) announced that they would be placing Shohei Ohtani on the DL with a sprained UCL.
Shohei Ohtani will be placed on the disabled list with a grade 2 sprain of the UCL. He underwent a PRP and Stem Cell injection yesterday with Dr. Steve Yoon in Los Angeles. He will be re-evaluated in 3 weeks and we will update his plan of care at that time.
— Angels PR (@LAAngelsPR) June 8, 2018
The UCL, of course, is the elbow ligament repaired when a player needs Tommy John surgery. Ohtani left his start on Wednesday night with the Royals after just four innings with a blister, which reportedly wasn’t a serious issue.
A sprained UCL is incredibly serious, especially for a stud pitcher like Ohtani who routinely ticks into the triple digits with gross offspeed stuff.
Ohtani’s been a two-way phenom for the Angels this year, slashing .289/.372/.535 at the plate with six homers in 43 games, and pitching to a 3.10 ERA on the mound with 61 strikeouts and 20 walks in 49 1/3 innings.
He’ll be out until the end of the month (at least), and that isn’t good news for an Angels team that is 4.5 games out of first in the AL West and 3.5 games back of the American League’s second Wild Card spot, currently held by the reigning World Champion Houston Astros. The Angels also have a bit of a tricky schedule heading into the All-Star Break, with a whopping nine games against the West-leading Seattle Mariners (including three next week), six against the Los Angeles Dodgers (their Southern California rival that actually plays in Los Angeles), and three in Boston against the Red Sox, who have the best record in baseball.
The Angels have been battered with injuries this season. Earlier this week, they placed shortstop Andrelton Simmons (hitting .330/.399/.460 with his usual otherworldly defense) on the DL with a sprained ankle, and are already without struggling right fielder Kole Calhoun (stained oblique) and catcher Rene Rivera (torn meniscus). On the mound, Ohtani joins a MASH unit that includes Alex Meyer (shoulder surgery), Keynan Middleton (Tommy John), JC Ramirez (Tommy John), Blake Wood (you guessed it, Tommy John), and Matt Shoemaker (forearm surgery that is *not* Tommy John).
On the bright side for the Angels, Andrew Heaney, Garrett Richards, and Tyler Skaggs have all thrived this season, avoiding injury and dominating on the hill (Skaggs has the higehst ERA of the three at 3.27), and rookie Jaime Barria has a 2.48 in seven starts when he’s not on the shuttle to AAA Salt Lake City. However, the bullpen has been incredibly taxed so far (four relievers have made 30 appearances out of just 23 in all of baseball, and a fourth is sitting on 29), and they’ll theoretically be taxed even more with Ohtani’s trip to the DL bumping the team down to a traditional five-man rotation.
Offensively, Ohtani will no doubt be a loss for the Angels, but as long as Mike Trout and his .311/.444/.662 (lol holy shit) triple slash remains in the starting nine every day, the Angels shouldn’t panic too much. Hell, Ohtani being hurt might actually help the Angels defense, because it could/should allow the shell of Albert Pujols (hitting just .252/.286/.403 this season) to DH every day and not try to fudge it at first base, allowing someone like Jefry Marte to get more reps at first base.
There’s no doubt about it – this sucks, and it’s terrible for the Angels and for baseball as a whole. And hey, maybe I’m grasping at straws here, but maybe Ohtani *won’t* need Tommy John surgery and can come back in the second half for the Angels. After all, Masahiro Tanaka (among others) had a similar elbow injury and avoided surgery with a similar course of treatment. But a PRP injection isn’t a guarantee – teammate Heaney underwent the same procedure in 2016, and still eventually needed Tommy John later that year.
All the Angels and their fans can do now is wait and see, and hope Ohtani’s season is over – and also hope that the team can keep themselves afloat without Ohtani for (at least) the next three weeks.