There’s some bad news for Los Angeles Angels’ star Shohei Ohtani. The team announced Wednesday that a MRI has confirmed new damage to Ohtani’s ulnar collateral ligament (UCL), and that the recommended treatment is “UCL reconstruction surgery,” or the famed Tommy John procedure:
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
This is notable because Ohtani pitched for the first time Sunday since undergoing a “UCL sprain” in June, which led to reports that he would likely undergo Tommy John surgery and be out until 2020. Instead, the Angels decided to bring him back and let him pitch. And his two-and-a-third inning appearance Sunday against the Houston Astros saw him throw 49 pitches with two strikeouts and two walks, but also saw his velocity drop from 96-99 miles per hour in the first two innings to 89-92 miles per hour in the third. Afterwards, though, manager Mike Scoscia said that wasn’t about further elbow problems:
After the game, Angels manager Mike Scioscia said the ailing elbow that led to Ohtani’s pitching absence held up just fine, but a stiff back and a finger injured while attempting to field a comebacker led to Ohtani’s loss in velocity.
A day later, Scioscia reiterated that Ohtani’s elbow “feels great.”
Yeah, not so much. And that raises big questions about why the Angels decided to bring him back after the first injury instead of just shutting him down for surgery. But he had found remarkable success this year, and it is notable that he’ll still be playing, only as just a hitter until surgery:
Shohei Ohtani and Babe Ruth are the only players with 50 IP and 15 HR in the same season.
Ohtani's average fastball velocity of 96.7 MPH this season is the 4th-highest among pitchers with 300+ fastballs thrown in starts this season (Stanek, Severino, Syndergaard). pic.twitter.com/ank2pdbBC3
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) September 5, 2018
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
Meanwhile, many blasted the Angels for having Ohtani pitch again after that sprain, and The Onion had a particularly devastating take on the team (currently 67-72, and a ways outside of playoff contention):
— The Onion (@TheOnion) September 5, 2018
It’s certainly unfortunate that this has happened to Ohtani, who’s given us a ton of highlights both on the mound and at the plate this season. If he does have to undergo surgery, hopefully that will go well, and hopefully he’ll be back to top form eventually.