ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Shohei Ohtani will have surgery soon on the ligament tear in his pitching elbow after the Los Angeles Angels' two-way star was ruled out for the rest of the season Saturday due to an oblique injury.
Ohtani and the Angels, out of playoff contention, decided to wrap up his season after an MRI exam showed persistent irritation in his oblique muscles, general manager Perry Minasian said. The injury was likely to prevent Ohtani, who had already missed 11 consecutive games, from hitting effectively in the season’s final two weeks.
“We kind of had a feeling that something was coming,” Angels manager Phil Nevin said. “He fought it. He tried. He’s upset by it. But it just got to a point, an understanding that he just wasn’t going to be able to go again this year.”
Ohtani now intends to have surgery on the torn elbow ligament to prepare for next season, although Minasian didn't know whether it would be Tommy John surgery or another procedure. Although Ohtani is unlikely to pitch next season, his agent has said his client wants to be ready to play as a designated hitter in 2024 for whatever team he chooses in free agency.
“Shohei is one of a kind, a great player, great person," Minasian said. “Anybody that knows him, has a chance to talk to him, has been around him, he’s a team guy. He’s a pretty special guy, special player. It’s been a pleasure to have a chance to get to know him, and hopefully he is here for a long time.”
Ohtani was placed on the 10-day injured list Saturday. He has not played since Sept. 3 because of the oblique injury, and his season as a pitcher ended on Aug. 23 after he tore his elbow ligament during a game against Cincinnati.
The two injuries ended one of the most remarkable seasons in major league history, with two-way production that made him a favorite to win his second AL MVP award in three years and created speculation he might get a contract for $500 million or more as a free agent.
Minasian said Ohtani's MRI revealed “a small irritation in that area, so we talked to the doctors and decided to shut it down for the season.”
Nearly all the personal items had been removed from Ohtani’s locker and the adjoining empty stall after Friday night’s game, and that abrupt change sparked widespread speculation about its meaning for Ohtani's future.
Minasian downplayed the importance of Ohtani's abrupt departure from the clubhouse, saying the slugger packed up only after he got the MRI results in the early innings of Friday's game.
“There’s no story here,” Minasian said. “It’s just him getting ready (for 2024). He’s so, so focused on, ‘Season’s over, I’ve got to ready for ’24,’ and that was what his mindset was.”
Minasian and Nevin said Ohtani told them he intends to be with the team for its final weeklong homestand in Anaheim following his surgery.
“He likes being here,” Nevin said. “He likes being around his teammates. I think it’s a place to be himself, and it will be nice to have him around the last week and around the guys. We have a lot of young players that can learn a lot.”
Even with its early end, Ohtani's season has been spectacular.
He led Japan to victory in the World Baseball Classic in March, winning the tournament's MVP award and striking out Angels teammate Mike Trout for the final out in the title game. Ohtani then set career bests for the Angels with a .304 batting average and 1.066 OPS in his best season at the plate.
The 29-year-old leads the AL with 44 homers and had 96 RBIs, eight triples and 20 stolen bases on a fourth-place Angels team that entered Saturday at 68-80, on the verge of a franchise-record eighth straight losing season.
Ohtani was 10-5 with a 3.14 ERA in 23 starts, striking out 167 and walking 55 in 132 innings.
The Angels were desperate to end their eight-year playoff drought this season to show Ohtani they were serious about winning, and they were still in contention near the Aug. 1 trade deadline. That prompted Los Angeles to keep Ohtani despite the risk of losing him for almost nothing in free agency, and the club even spent at the deadline to add players for its postseason chase.
But the Angels went on a seven-game losing streak immediately after the deadline and plummeted out of the race even before the elbow injury to Ohtani, their ace on the mound. The Halos also have been without three-time AL MVP Trout for all but one game since July 3 due to a hand injury.
Minasian refused to second-guess the Angels' deadline strategy.
“Not everything works the way you plan it to work," he said. "It’s easy to say it now, but at the time with where we were in the standings, with how we were playing, we felt like the right decision to make, and I wouldn’t change it.”
Ohtani had Tommy John surgery on Oct. 1, 2018, performed by Los Angeles Dodgers head team physician Neal ElAttrache. He returned to the Angels as a batter the following May 7 and to the mound on July 26, 2020, in a season delayed by the pandemic. He didn’t retire a batter in his return, got just five outs on Aug. 2 and left with a strained forearm that kept him from pitching until 2021.
Since then, he’s gone 34-16 with a 2.84 ERA in 74 starts.
“You are not going to manage a player like that ever again,” Nevin said. “What he does is exceptional and special. We talk about it every day.”
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The Associated Press