It’s “Sho-time” in Queens this weekend, but on a much more somber note.
Shohei Ohtani, the Angels two-way star, visits Citi Field on the heels of the news that he will no longer pitch this season after being diagnosed with a UCL tear in his right elbow.
Despite the tear, Ohtani is still in the lineup and was penciled in the two-hole for Friday night’s opener against the Mets, who will certainly have their hands full in limiting the offensive damage he is capable of, which includes his MLB-leading 44 home runs.
“He’s had a special season, that’s for sure,” Mets manager Buck Showalter said before the game. “He’s been good for baseball, good for the game - the whole nine yards. I hope he takes a break from that the next three days but I doubt it; we’ll have our work cut out for us.”
Ohtani, 29, is particularly appealing to watch this weekend, not just because he is the best player in baseball, but because he is set to become a free agent at the end of the year.
The Mets had previously been linked as a potential option for Ohtani, but the team’s pivot toward a rebuild at the trade deadline could potentially impact their interest, although his elbow injury certainly throws a caveat into his entire free agency.
Nevertheless, Showalter – like many baseball fans – was disheartened by the news Ohtani would no longer pitch this year.
“It sounds like he’ll continue to hit but if you love baseball and love the game and want it to do well you like the idea of him doing what he’s been doing, unless it’s done to you,” Showalter said. “When I heard of some of his challenges physically, I felt bad for him. I felt bad for the game, it’s good for the game [for him] to be doing that. It’s very special.”
Facing Ohtani and the Angels will be Mets rookie, and Ohtani’s fellow countryman, Kodai Senga. Showalter said the fact Senga will be facing Ohtani does not seem to faze him.
“We had some options about him pitching tonight…it was like ‘what does the team need to do? …What suits the teams needs that’s when I’ll pitch,’” Showalter said. “He’s always been about the team and what’s best. What actually is the case? We’re all human beings and have emotions about things…but we’ll see. It’ll be fun for the fans, I can tell you that.”