The news that Angels fans across the nation have dreaded has been confirmed. Shohei Ohtani, who re-injured his right elbow in a few innings against Houston a few weeks ago, will undergo Tommy John surgery next week to repair a damaged UCL.
Manager Mike Scioscia stated Tuesday afternoon that Ohtani will indeed hit in 2019, and the Angels shouldn’t worry about his productivity in that area while he heals, as Ohtani has performed in a solid way since damaging his UCL.
This type of news, especially for pitchers, is all too familiar to the Angels fanbase. In the last few seasons especially, the starting rotation starts strong and holds a lot of promise, but falters a month or two in as starters drop like flies to one all-too avoidable injury after another.
But why is this the case year in and year out? Why can’t the Angels seem to figure out a way to keep their pitchers healthy? Is it just bad luck? I don’t think so. I think a systemic misunderstanding of the proper way to bring a pitcher back from an injury exists deep within the Angels management and training staff. Not that they just don’t have a clue (they wouldn’t have the jobs they do if they didn’t) but, time and again we see the Angels bringing pitchers back too early after serious injuries whereas, if they had let them rest longer to rehab the injury better, the player would be much better off.
Now, this isn’t necessarily the case with Ohtani. The management staff knew of a pre-existing elbow injury that Ohtani had coming into this year and, since Ohtani seemed good enough to go at the start of the year, they went forward and played him. The return date to the mound for Ohtani is set at the start of spring training 2020, the same as it would have been if he had opted for the surgery at the beginning of this year.
Regardless of the fine details, Angels fans everywhere are likely holding their collective breath as they wait and see what their management will do with the future of, possibly, the most special player major league baseball has seen in a century. The road back to the mound will be long and hard, but if anyone is up to the task, it’s Ohtani.
Photo: F. Carter Smith