Sun, Jun 10, 2018 - Page 11 News List

Ohtani out at least three weeks with elbow sprain


The Los Angeles Angels on Friday put Shohei Ohtani on the disabled list with a sprained ligament in his pitching elbow, an ominous injury that is to be re-evaluated in three weeks and brought the two-way sensation’s remarkable rookie season to at least a temporary halt.

Ohtani’s right ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) has a Grade 2 sprain, which typically indicates some degree of damage, but not a complete tear, The Angels said.

For all the benefits the Angels have reaped from his nine turns on the mound and 30 starts as the designated hitter, the next feat for Ohtani would be to avoid Tommy John ligament replacement procedure.

“We’re hopeful that he can, that this is completely treatable with the biologic prescription that the doctors recommend,” general manager Billy Eppler said.

Ohtani on Thursday underwent injections of platelet-rich plasma and stem cells in Los Angeles.

Eppler, speaking on a conference call with reporters before the Angels began a three-game series at Minnesota, said Ohtani would not throw a ball again until his checkup in three weeks.

“I’m just going to take every day as it comes and put him on this course of recovery and strengthening for the next three weeks and then deal with what we’ve got to deal with in three weeks’ time,” Eppler said.

Manager Mike Scioscia expressed a similarly measured reaction, sitting in the dugout at Target Field before his suddenly injury-depleted team faced the Twins.

“The schedule doesn’t stop and you can’t take a timeout,” Scioscia said. “We’ve got to absorb it and move on.”

Ohtani left his last pitching start after four innings on Wednesday due to the recurrence of a blister on his pitching fingers. Only then, Eppler and Scioscia said, did the Angels get their first indication Ohtani’s UCL might be distressed.

Yahoo Sports in December last year reported that Ohtani had a Grade 1 sprain of his UCL, but Eppler said at the time there were “no signs of acute trauma” in the ligament.

Angels teammate Garrett Richards was also able to avoid the procedure after a similar injury in 2016 and opting for stem-cell treatment instead.

“Hopefully, this works for him. It worked for me,” Richards said. “I understand it doesn’t work for everybody, but our thoughts are with him and we’re going to be right there with him every step of the way.”

Ohtani is 4-1 with a 3.10 ERA in his debut MLB season. He has 61 strikeouts in 49-and-a-third innings, with a dazzling mix of 161kph fastballs and precipitous breaking pitches, including a vicious splitter, which typically puts significant stress on the ligaments. Their opponents are batting just .202 against him.

Ohtani is also batting .289 with six home runs, 20 RBIs and a .907 on-base-plus-slugging percentage as baseball’s most successful two-way player in decades.

Eppler said if the Angels only viewed Ohtani as a hitter, he would probably be able to keep playing with such an injury. The Angels are paying a US$20 million posting fee to Ohtani’s previous club, the Nippon Ham Fighters, for the right to sign him.

“But that’s not his circumstance, and that’s not how we want to utilize the player,” Eppler said. “It was determined that any unique swing or variability could impose some small percentage increase in risk, so that’s why we’re going to give it the three-week time period right now.”

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