The Braves have found a new first baseman in the wake of Freddie Freeman‘s injury. Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that the Braves have signed James Loney to a minor league contract.
Loney, 33, spent last season with the Mets, hitting .265/.307/.397 with nine home runs and 34 RBI in 366 plate appearances while playing solid defense. He was playing in the minors for the Tigers this season, where he hit .229/.387/.250 in 62 plate appearances. He was released by the Tigers on May 7.
Other first base types were available, but Loney performed well enough last year and still plays good enough defense that he works in a pinch for the Braves. If the Braves promote Loney, he could share time at first base with prospect Rio Ruiz, who was called up from Triple-A Gwinnett on Thursday.
The Angels signed Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani for a $2.3 million signing bonus last weekend. They may have damaged goods on their hands. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports that Ohtani underwent a physical that revealed a first-degree sprain of his ulnar collateral ligament. As a result, he got a platelet-rich plasma injection on October 20. This was made known to teams after Ohtani entered MLB’s posting system, so it wasn’t like the Angels went into this blind.
Ohtani’s report said, “Although partial damage of UCL in deep layer of his right UCL exists, he is able to continue full baseball participation with sufficient elbow care program.” It also said Ohtani “will most likely be available to start his throwing program approximately a month from the PRP.”
Passan notes that the report also mentioned that a “small free body” floats in Ohtani’s elbow near his UCL.
Ohtani isn’t without other injuries. He battled hamstring and ankle issues throughout 2017 and underwent right ankle surgery back in October. Thankfully for the Angels, this diagnosis is about as good as it could be considering the circumstances. However, if Ohtani does exacerbate his UCL issue, he may ultimately need Tommy John surgery at some point, which would take him out of action for at least a year.