Angels 2-way star Shohei Ohtani scheduled to return to mound Sunday vs. Astros

Los Angeles Angels manager Mike Scioscia told reporters Thursday that two-way star Shohei Ohtani is scheduled to pitch on Sunday against the Houston Astros.

It will be his first start since June 6 after it was revealed that he had suffered a UCL sprain.

Ohtani was off to hot start from the mound before injury

Through nine starts of his debut MLB season, the 23-year-old has posted a 3.10 ERA and 1.135 WHIP while striking out 61 and walking 20 through 49.1 innings.

Ohtani has continued to play as a designated hitter, hitting .275 with 15 home runs and 43 RBI in 262 plate appearances while posting an .898 OPS.

Ohtani had treatment, but opted out of Tommy John surgery

Ohtani received a platement-rich-plasma and stem-cell injection shortly after the injury was revealed and has opted to avoid Tommy John Surgery, which would sideline him until 2020.

His grade-2 tear is significant enough to consider the procedure and has prompted thousands of others in his position at multiple levels of baseball to have the operation.

Shohei Ohtani is scheduled to pitch on Sunday after a nearly three-month absence with a UCL injury. (AP)
Shohei Ohtani is scheduled to pitch on Sunday after a nearly three-month absence with a UCL injury. (AP)

Pitching with UCL tear comes with risk

There is risk of further damage to Ohtani’s UCL by playing, but it would be the same risk if the Angels waited until next season. In the absence of Tommy John surgery, it’s difficult to tell how his elbow will react until he pitches.

Ohtani had a first-degree UCL sprain when the Angels signed him last December, which he played through until the more severe tear was revealed. Further damage would almost certainly lead to Tommy John surgery.

Ohtani not the first to pitch through injury

Ohtani is not the first Major Leaguer to opt to play through a UCL tear. New York Yankees starter Masahiro Tanaka has continued to pitch since suffering a UCL tear in 2014. Minnesota Twins pitcher Ervin Santana suffered a sprained UCL in 2009 and has pitched full starting slates for several seasons since.

It seems better to find out sooner than later how Ohtani’s UCL will react to taking the mound. If he’s able to continue without causing further damage, then it’s good news all around. If it turns out he does need Tommy John, it’s better to learn now than waste an entire offseason.

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