Pedro Gomez of ESPN reported overnight that the Los Angeles Angels expect Ohtani to undergo Tommy John surgery and miss the remainder of the 2018 season and the entire 2019 season. Here was Gomez’s comment on SportsCenter:
“Everything I’m hearing is that the reality is, he probably will need Tommy John surgery . . . The earliest we might see him, should he have TJ surgery, would be the 2020 season.”
There has been no confirmation by the Angels or anyone close to Ohtani, but nor has there been contradiction. We’ll obviously hear more on this today.
Ohtani was diagnosed with a Grade 2 UCL strain late last week. He underwent a platelet-rich plasma and stem cell injections, with the idea being that he could avoid surgery by doing so. Such a path has worked for Masahiro Tanaka and some other pitchers, but it’s by no means foolproof. The Angels were going to reevaluate him in three weeks. At this point, waiting the three weeks before surgery would likely not harm his timetable should surgery then be decided, so it’s possible that the Angels will still wait and see.
If Ohtani does go under the knife, however, it would be sad, sad ending to his breakout rookie season. Ohtani has wowed baseball by being its first effective two-way player in nearly a century, going 4-1 with a 3.10 ERA and a K/BB ratio of 61/20 in 49.1 innings as a starter and hitting .289/.372/.535 with six homers and 20 RBI in 129 plate appearance as a part-time designated hitter.
Ohtani turns 24 early next month. He signed with the Angels this past offseason as a free agent, but is subject to a full six years of team control per MLB’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. For that reason this setback will not substantially impact the Angels financially nor impact Ohtani’s near or mid-range future in Major League Baseball from a financial perspective, but it’s obviously a big blow to him, the Angels and fans who have come to enjoy him in his brief time in the States.
Here’s hoping he can avoid surgery and get back to his old self via rehab. Given the Angels’ and Ohtani’s long-term interests, however, and given this report, that’s not seeming particularly likely.
UPDATE: Angels’ GM Billy Eppler is denying that any decisions have been made along these lines:
Obviously, of course, the internal chatter Gomez is hearing could be part of the decision making process, so it does not necessarily rebut the report. We’ll know for sure when the Angels announce something for sure.