Injured Angels superstar Ohtani won’t pitch again this year with free agency looming

Shohei Ohtani won’t pitch for the rest of the season because of a ligament tear in his right elbow, Los Angeles Angels general manager Perry Minasian said Wednesday night.

The Angels don’t yet know whether the major league homers leader and 10-game winner will need surgery to repair the UCL ligament nearly five years after the two-way superstar had his first Tommy John surgery in late 2018 following his American League Rookie of the Year season.

Ohtani left the mound abruptly Wednesday in the second inning of his start against Cincinnati in the opener of a doubleheader.

The injury will have a massive effect on baseball’s free agent market this winter with Ohtani headed to free agency. The uniquely valuable AL MVP front-runner was expected to receive the most lucrative contract offers in baseball history after six landmark seasons with the Angels, but now much will depend on the health of his pitching elbow.

“If I was to bet on anybody bouncing back, he would be the guy,” said Minasian, who didn’t know the grade of Ohtani’s ligament tear.

Adds to league-leading HR total

Ohtani sits atop the majors with 44 homers after connecting for a longball in the first inning of the first game Wednesday. He’s also 10-5 with a 3.14 ERA as the Angels’ ace on the mound.

Ohtani insisted on playing as the Angels’ designated hitter in the nightcap even after the team discovered the tear while running tests between games.

“He’s a pro,” Minasian said. “Didn’t faze him. ‘Am I OK to play tonight? I want to play tonight.’ He’s a mentally strong individual. To do what he does, you have to be. How he handled it and the fact that he played, to me, is beyond impressive.”

Minasian didn’t think the unprecedented demands of two-way play finally might have got to Ohtani, who hasn’t missed a game since May 2 by his own choice.

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The GM wasn’t sure whether his two-way superstar will continue to chase the major league homers crown while serving as their designated hitter this year, but those concerns were secondary compared to the importance of Ohtani’s long-term health. The Angels open a nine-game trip against the New York Mets on Friday.

“I think he needs time to wrap his head around it, talk to the people close to him,” Minasian said. “We’re in the process of getting second opinions. Once the information is there, he’ll make the right decision on what he wants to do, and we’ll support him, whatever he decides.”

Arm ‘just didn’t feel right’

Ohtani had a 2-2 count on Christian Encarnacion-Strand on Wednesday when the Angels’ training staff came out to check on him following a 94 mph fastball. Ohtani headed off the mound after a brief discussion, having thrown just 26 pitches.

Nevin said Ohtani told him that his pitching arm “just didn’t feel right.”

“He told me he didn’t feel any pain,” Nevin said after the Angels’ 9-4 loss. “It was just more of the same thing he’s been feeling for the last couple of weeks.”

Ohtani crosses home plate in the the fifth inning in the second baseball game of a doubleheader on Wednesday in Anaheim, Calif. Ohtani returned for the nightcap against Cincinnati despite an arm injury that saw him leave the first game early. (Mark J. Terrill/The Associated Press)

Ohtani played 106 games as the Angels’ designated hitter in the 2019 season after having Tommy John surgery. He even hit for the Halos late in the 2018 season before the surgery, but after being shut down on the mound for the season with what the team initially called a ligament sprain.

Ohtani still seems almost certain to win his second AL MVP award in three seasons after another standout two-way campaign. His two-run homer gave him 91 RBIs and broke his tie with Atlanta’s Matt Olson atop the homer standings.

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