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Angels star Shohei Ohtani won't pitch for the rest of the season after elbow injury

Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani gets set to pitch during the first inning in the first baseball game of a doubleheader against the Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday, in Anaheim, Calif., before an MRI exam revealed his elbow tendon tear.
Mark J. Terrill
/
AP
Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Shohei Ohtani gets set to pitch during the first inning in the first baseball game of a doubleheader against the Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday, in Anaheim, Calif., before an MRI exam revealed his elbow tendon tear.

Los Angeles Angels star Shohei Ohtani has suffered an elbow injury, dealing a blow to the baseball world and, potentially, the career prospects of a player regarded in the MLB as a once-in-a-century talent.

Ohtani, a rare dual pitcher-hitter, was diagnosed with an ulnar collateral ligament tear in his right elbow in between Wednesday's doubleheader games, Angels general manager Perry Minasian said. His early exit from the mound was initially cited as "arm fatigue."

The injury takes Ohtani off the pitcher's mound for the rest of the season. After his diagnosis revealed the tear, Ohtani remained the designated hitter for the second game. It's unclear whether he'll continue to be able to hit this season, but Minasian said that, to start, the 29-year-old will be pulled from hitting for at least 10 days.

"We're going to get a second opinion and go from there. It's basically day to day. Obviously, he hit. But that's where we're at," Minasian told reporters Wednesday night. As far as recovery, "there's no timeframe," he added.

There were warning signs: Ohtani has been dealing with arm fatigue this season, which caused him to miss his scheduled start at a game last week.

It's Ohtani's second UCL tear in five years. It's possible that, as in 2018, he'll undergo the "Tommy John" surgery, a common reconstruction operation performed on pitchers with the injury, for the second time.

A second elbow surgery could knock Ohtani from the height of his pitching career

The Japanese-born pitcher, who leads the league inhome runs, has been compared to the likes of legendary two-way star Babe Ruth.

There even has been speculation that Ohtani could land the most lucrative free-agent contract in MLB history this winter.

His latest injury could change that.

Most pitchers who get the Tommy John surgery return to pro baseball, but usually see a drop in their performance. The outlook for pitchers who have had the tendon surgery twice is even less rosy, according to a 2014 study.

After one Tommy John surgery, "You're probably not as good as you were before, but you're near to where you should be," researcher and surgeon Robert Keller told The Washington Post in 2015. "When you have a second one, you may not come back, and if you do, you won't pitch as much and you won't pitch as long."

It's unknown if or when Ohtani will pitch again.

"Obviously disappointing news, I feel terrible for him," Minasian said. "If anyone can bounce back, it's him."

Whatever happens, the forced end to his season as pitcher caps a historic run. With 10 wins this year, Ohtani is the first player in the MLBto get 40 home runs as a batter and 10 wins as a pitcher in one season, according to ESPN data.

He also notched 167 strikeouts this season, making him thefirst player in league history to mark two seasons with 40 home runs and 150 pitching strikeouts.

The news has left many baseball fans and spectators crushed.

Sports radio personality Zach Gelb tweeted, "what he did on the mound and at the plate was just ridiculous and the best thing baseball had going."

"The greatest unicorn season in the history of sports officially ended, and that makes me sad," said commentator Adam Schein of CBS Sports.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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