Los Angeles Angels

Shohei Ohtani set for Tommy John surgery, can DH early next year

Shohei Ohtani, the Angels’ rookie pitcher/DH, will undergo Tommy John surgery next week and will not be available to pitch until 2020. He can DH next season.

Shohei Ohtani, whose elbow injury was botched by the Los Angeles Angels when they allowed him to return to the mound for no apparent reason on Sept. 2, is set to undergo Tommy John surgery next week that will keep him off the mound (or out of the field) until 2020.

According to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, Ohtani can return to the Angels early next season to be their designated hitter.

Ohtani was very good on the mound in his first nine starts, going 4-1 with a 3.10 ERA and 1.135 WHIP through June 6, when he left a start against the Kansas City Royals with discomfort in his right elbow.

He returned to the mound on Sept. 2 against the Houston Astros and left after 2.1 innings and 49 pitches (he was on a very strict pitch count), apparently finishing the shredding of his ulnar collateral ligament, which will be replaced in next week’s surgery.

But as a regular hitter in the lineup the last two months, he has flourished. In August and September, Ohtani has slashed a cool .310/.399/.659 in 43 games, with 12 home runs and 31 RBI.

He belted his 21st home run of the season in the first inning of Monday’s 5-4 win over the Texas Rangers before going hitless in his final four plate appearances in the 11-inning content.

As a hitter, Ohtani has hit .280/.361/.564 overall in 99 games, with 20 doubles, 21 homers and 56 RBI. He’s walked 37 times and has 99 strikeouts.

A power pitcher, Ohtani fanned 63 in 51.2 innings this season, but his velocity was markedly off in his return against the Astros earlier this month, per CBSSports.com.

That led to the tests that discovered the torn ligament in his elbow.

The projection is that Ohtani will be able to hit again in six to nine months, but won’t throw for much longer.

But this is new ground. There hasn’t been a true two-way player in baseball since Babe Ruth in the early 20th century. Since Tommy John surgery wouldn’t come along for another 50-some-odd years, the guidelines for rehabilitation for a two-way player are … well … nonexistent.

Given how well Ohtani hit the ball when he wasn’t dealing with that whole pitching thing, maybe the Angels want to consider making that a full-time move. When he was pitching regularly in the rotation, the Angels were strictly ensuring he did not swing a bat the day before or after starts.

That limited him to roughly four days a week (depending on when his turns in the rotation fell) where he could be in the lineup at DH.

The two-way thing proved to be much more than a novelty for Ohtani, who more than lived up to the most optimistic hype in both roles.

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But if he has a huge year at the plate next year, the Angels might want to at least entertain the idea of keeping a bat in Ohtani’s hands on a more regular basis.

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