Los Angeles Angels two-way superstar Shohei Ohtani underwent surgery on his right (throwing) elbow on Tuesday, a little less than a month after being diagnosed with a torn UCL, Ohtani’s agent Nez Balelo said in a statement. According to Dr. Neal ElAttrache, who performed the procedure in Los Angeles, Ohtani is expected to be free of restrictions as a hitter in 2024 and resume pitching in 2025.
“The ultimate plan after deliberation with Shohei, was to repair the issue at hand and to reinforce the healthy ligament in place while adding viable tissue for the longevity of the elbow,” ElAttrache also said in Balelo’s statement. It’s unclear exactly what the surgery entailed, including whether it was a full Tommy John treatment.
Ohtani himself posted the following statement to social media:
I had a procedure done on my elbow earlier this morning and everything went very well. Thank you very much for everyone’s prayers and kind words.
It was very unfortunate that I couldn’t finish out the year on the field, but I will be rooting on the boys until the end.
I will work as hard as I can and do my best to come back on the diamond stronger than ever.
Ohtani has not played since Sept. 3. He hurt his oblique during batting practice the next day, and although the Angels continued to list him as day-to-day, Ohtani did not appear in a game for 11 days prior to being placed on the 10-day injured list. Ohtani did go through pregame work in recent days, though he was not well enough to return to game action.
The 29-year-old Ohtani finishes his season with a .304/.412/.654 batting line and an AL-leading 44 home runs as a hitter. He threw 132 innings with a 3.14 ERA and 167 strikeouts as a pitcher. Ohtani leads all players with 10.0 WAR — he is still the AL MVP frontrunner — and the case can be made his 2021-23 seasons are the greatest three-year run in baseball history.
Despite pairing Ohtani with Mike Trout the last six years, the Angels never once made the postseason or even posted a winning record during the former’s time with the team. The Halos have not been to the postseason since 2014, when they were swept in the ALDS by the Kansas City Royals. They have not won a postseason game since the 2009 ALCS.
Here’s what you need to know about Ohtani and his elbow surgery now that his season is over.
This is Ohtani’s second notable elbow surgery
Ohtani underwent Tommy John surgery on Oct. 1, 2018, following his first season with the Angels. This second surgery may carry more risk than the first, though in recent years several pitchers have come back and been effective following a second procedure of a similar nature, including Nathan Eovaldi and Jameson Taillon.
Ohtani plans to hit in 2024
Earlier this month Ohtani’s agent, Nez Balelo, said “Shohei is going to be in somebody’s lineup next year, DH-ing when the bell rings.” Ohtani continued to hit during his first Tommy John surgery rehab — Bryce Harper is doing the same this season — though he did not return to the lineup until about a month into the 2019 season following his October 2018 surgery. Expect to see Ohtani in the lineup as a hitter at some point next year. That’s the plan. Balelo re-iterated those plans with his Tuesday statement.
Our Matt Snyder recently spoke to a doctor and explained why Ohtani can continue to hit while rehabbing his elbow as a pitcher.
He intends to continue pitching
In case there were any doubt, Balelo confirmed Ohtani does intend to continue pitching. There had been speculation he would give up being a two-way player, but no such plan exists. “Shohei loves to pitch. There’s not a question in his mind that he’s going to come back and continue to do both,” Balelo said last month. We know this much: Ohtani will not pitch in 2024. The surgery confirms it. Come 2025, though, we should see Ohtani back on the mound. As ElAttrache’s comments above indicate, Ohtani isn’t done pitching.
Ohtani will be a free agent this offseason
The surgery could not come at a worse time for Ohtani, who is only a few weeks away from being one of the most coveted free agent in baseball history. Ohtani is still going to cash in, of course, perhaps even securing a record contract, though the elbow surgery complicates his market. He won’t pitch next season, but when exactly will he return as a hitter? How much are teams willing to bet on Ohtani returning to form as a pitcher? We’ll find out in the coming weeks and months.