Angels’ Shohei Ohtani suffers torn ulnar collateral ligament, ending his season as a pitcher

Angels’ Shohei Ohtani suffers torn ulnar collateral ligament, ending his season as a pitcher

ANAHEIM —Shohei Ohtani has a torn ulnar collateral ligament, ending his season as a pitcher and dramatically shifting his prospects for what was expected to be a record-setting free agency this winter.

Ohtani returned to the mound on Wednesday afternoon and left after just 26 pitches with what the team initially described as “fatigue.” Manager Phil Nevin said that Ohtani “didn’t feel any pain.”

After the second game, though, the Angels revealed that imaging between games identified the tear. The Angels and Ohtani have not yet decided if he will undergo a second Tommy John surgery or how much he will hit for the rest of the season.

Ohtani did not speak to the media on Wednesday, between games or after their doubleheader loss to the Cincinnati Reds. The Angels lost the first game 9-4 and the second game 7-3, losing for the 16th time in 21 games.

Ohtani is set to be a free agent at the end of the season, and his contract was expected to be at least $500 million. With his future as a pitcher in doubt, it is unlikely that he would be able to reach that level.

The Angels also placed outfielder Mike Trout back on the injured list to give him more time to recover from the fractured hamate bone he suffered in July. Trout had surgery to remove the bone, and he missed seven weeks, which is within the four- to eight-week time frame for the surgery.

Trout played on Tuesday night, but felt too much discomfort, prompting the Angels to put him back on the injured list to give him more time.

Ohtani suffered a tear during the 2018 season, resulting in surgery that prevented him from pitching until 2020. He made just two appearances that year before suffering another injury, which put his career as a two-way player in question before his sensational 2021 season, which was the first of three straight historic seasons.

Ohtani, 29, finished his 2023 season on the mound with a 10-5 record and a 3.14 ERA in 132 innings. He returned to the lineup as the DH for the second game of the doubleheader even though he had received the diagnosis between games. Ohtani doubled in five trips to the plate. He is hitting .304 with a league-leading 44 homers and an OPS of 1.069.

General manager Perry Minasian said they haven’t yet determined if Ohtani will accompany the team on its three-city trip, which begins on Friday in New York.

Minasian said that Ohtani had not mentioned any pain in his elbow as he went through a tumultuous few weeks, with blister issues, a broken fingernail and cramping. He asked to skip his previous start, in Texas, because of what he described to the Angels as arm fatigue.

Ohtani’s velocity was slightly down throughout the first five batters that he faced. In between, he slugged his league-leading 44th home run, a two-run blast in the bottom of the first.

In the top of the second, he threw a 2-and-2 fastball to Christian Encarnacion-Strand and then he looked toward the Angels’ dugout and shook his head. Nevin and Frostad came to the mound, and Ohtani left after a short discussion.

“Velocity ticked up there in the first, you saw some (95s) and (96s) and then you know, in the second it was down,” Nevin said. “I was noticing the shapes on his pitches, which we have information on, just weren’t the same. I just saw a look after a pitch so I decided to go out there and check on him.”

Ohtani had remained in the game as the DH on other occasions when he had issues with his fingers, but this time the Angels wanted to be more careful, Nevin said.

“This is a little different when he’s talking about his arm,” Nevin said.

Nevin said he didn’t believe that Ohtani is tired, beyond what he’s feeling in his arm. Ohtani has played 125 of the Angels’ 127 games.

“He hit a ball 115 mph an hour in the first inning,” Nevin said. “He beat out two singles two days ago on grounders to short. So if you’re asking me if he’s tired, I’m gonna tell you no. He would be honest with me.”

After Ohtani was removed, left-handed starter Tyler Anderson emerged from the bullpen to take the mound. Before the game, Nevin said the Angels’ pitching rotation for this weekend’s series against the New York Mets was undetermined. Nevin said they would know more after seeing who they needed to pitch to get through Wednesday’s doubleheader.

Ohtani has a 3.14 ERA in 132 innings this season. He had been on pace for career-highs in innings and starts before he began having issues in early July.

Rookie Elly De La Cruz did much of the damage for the Reds. After an error by shortstop Andrew Velazquez on what would have been the final out of the inning, De La Cruz hit a three-run home run off of Anderson to give the Reds a 4-3 lead. Two innings later, he ripped a three-run triple to break the game open.

“We made one mistake on defense, and they capitalized on it,” Nevin said. “It’s a tough play coming in on a runner like that and then the three-run home run after that kills you. We’ve had it a few times this homestand. Mistakes are gonna happen. We all know that. It’s what you do afterwards.”

The Angels loaded the bases in the bottom of the seventh, but Hunter Renfroe – batting .179 in August – struck out.

Luis Rengifo had three hits, including a double and a triple, and Mickey Moniak had three hits for his first multi-hit game since Aug. 1. Moniak had been in a 6-for-54 slump with 26 strikeouts going into the game.

Rookie Nolan Schanuel reached safely in his four at-bats after replacing Ohtani at DH with three walks and an infield single.

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