Los Angeles Angels two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani plans to finish the season as a hitter after doctors recommended that the right-hander undergo Tommy John surgery to repair UCL damage in his pitching elbow.
On Friday, Ohtani told reporters that he has not yet decided about Tommy John surgery.
Shohei Ohtani said he will finish the season as a hitter. Hasn’t decided yet about TJ.
— Jeff Fletcher (@JeffFletcherOCR) September 7, 2018
Ohtani returned to the mound on Sunday after taking time off when June tests revealed a grade 2 UCL sprain. He lasted just 2.1 innings in Sunday’s outing that saw a significant drop in his velocity before an MRI revealed further damage to his pitching elbow.
Report: Ohtani ‘mostly resigned’ to Tommy John surgery
Orange County Register reporter Jeff Fletcher noted that Ohtani is “is mostly resigned” to having Tommy John surgery, but not ready to make the decision.
The report all but rules out Ohtani returning as a pitcher next season. Tommy John surgery typically requires a 12-18 month recovery time. If he and the Angels had any hope of him returning to the mound late in the 2019 season after surgery, there would be more urgency for him to make the call on the procedure.
If a 2020 return is the goal, as it appears to be, there is no rush. If that’s the case, then Ohtani should take the time he needs to prepare for the decision.
Ohtani could continue to hit after surgery
As damaging as a UCL injury is to a pitcher’s ability to perform, it doesn’t seem to play a role in a hitter’s performance. Ohtani demonstrated as much while hitting a pair of towering home runs as a designated hitter while going 4-for-4 on Wednesday after the Tommy John recommendation was made. He hit another home run on Friday.
Medical experts explained to Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan in detail that, provided there are no complications from Tommy John surgery, Ohtani should expect to perform as a designated hitter in 2019 while recovering from the procedure without issue.
As bizarre as it sounds, Ohtani could maintain the form that has seen him hit .287 with 19 home runs and 50 RBIs while posting a .953 OPS in 284 plate appearances as a rookie in the late stages of recovery from a significant medical procedure on his right elbow.
So while it’s disappointing for the Angels and their fans to see Ohtani’s pitching career take a blow, all signs point to Ohtani continuing to take the field as a hitter in 2019.
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