Baseball fans — and those of the Los Angeles Angels, at least for now — got some good news about star player Shohei Ohtani.
In the first public comments from Ohtani’s camp since it was revealed that he had torn the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, the second time he has suffered the injury, Ohtani’s agent Nez Balelo told reporters Monday that Ohtani intends to remain a two-way player, despite the injury.
“There’s not a question in his mind that he’s going to come back and he’s going to continue to do both,” Balelo said of Ohtani’s future pitching and hitting, according to ESPN.
The tear was publicly revealed August 23, in the middle of a doubleheader against the Cincinnati Reds. The injury presents a seismic shift for Ohtani’s future, as he is set to become one of the most coveted free agents in baseball history, in large part because of his immense value as both a premier slugger and star pitcher.
Balelo confirmed that Ohtani will undergo “some type of procedure” to mend the ailment and indicated that Ohtani will at least be ready to hit at the start of next season. The one that has been the standard for these injuries, Tommy John surgery, would keep him off the mound for the entirety of the 2024 season; Ohtani has already had the surgery, in October 2018.
On Monday, Balelo did not offer specifics for Ohtani’s treatment plan this time, declining to disclose whether Ohtani would be a candidate for a less invasive procedure.
“It’s completely different,” Balelo said of the most recent UCL tear, before adding that the graft from the October 2018 Tommy John surgery is “all together, all intact, no problems. Everything looks good.”
Balelo also said doctors told him that the ligament tear was “the best-case scenario for the situation we’re in.”
Balelo added that doctors informed Ohtani that continuing to hit as a designated hitter would not impact the UCL tear, which has led to his continued presence in the lineup for Los Angeles.
“He can lift, he can run, he can slide, take violent swings,” Balelo said. “He can do anything he wants right now. It doesn’t affect the problem in question. We’re good. Whatever we decide to get done, we have to take into consideration next year. The way the timetable is going to play out, he’s going to be fine when the bell rings in ’24.”
Ohtani has been posting one of the more productive seasons in MLB history, hitting .304 with 44 home runs, which is tied for the league lead, and 95 RBIs and 20 stolen bases. Prior to his being shut down from pitching after the UCL tear was revealed, Ohtani went 10-5 with a 3.14 ERA and 167 strikeouts in 132 innings pitched.
“Shohei’s going to be fine,” Balelo said. “Is he going to pitch the rest of the year? No. We already know that. Is he going to get into next year? We don’t know yet. So just bear with me on that. But I do know this — no matter what timetable we’re dealing with and when we get this done, Shohei’s going to be in somebody’s lineup next year, DHing when the bell rings. We know that. We’re not going to push that. He’s going to be good to go.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Shohei Ohtani injury requires ‘procedure’ for Angels’ two-way star