ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA - Los Angeles Angels two-way rookie Shohei Ohtani will have Tommy John surgery next week and return next season only as a hitter.
The Angels confirmed Ohtani’s long-expected decision on elbow ligament replacement Tuesday. Dr. Neal ElAttrache will perform the surgery in Los Angeles.
Just a few hours later, Ohtani gave yet another glimpse of what he could do at the plate. His bat was broken by a Yovani Gallardo slider, but he was strong enough to punch it into center for a single that tied the score and ignited a four-run rally to lead the Angels to a 4-1 comeback over the Texas Rangers.
Ohtani, Justin Upton, Taylor Ward and Kaleb Cowart all pushed in runs for the home team.
The two-way star admitted to frustration at not being able to continue as a pitcher next season.
“I am disappointed that I’m not going to be able to pitch next season, but I try to take positives out of negative things,” he said. “Normal (pitchers) wouldn’t be able to play at all next season, but fortunately I’ll play as a hitter.”
Ohtani said he was uncertain if he would be ready to hit by opening day.
“There’s no really set date, it’s going to depend on how the rehab goes and if there are no setbacks. I’ll have an update every four weeks or so after the surgery. I can’t give a timetable at this point.”
Despite being something of a sensation during the first half of the season, Ohtani said he doesn’t feel he has proven he is a legitimate two-way player.
“It’s been a small sample size with just one season, so can’t really say I proved to the world that I can continue being a two-way player,” Ohtani said.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia agreed with Ohtani’s decision and confirmed general manager Billy Eppler’s earlier statements that the Angels are committed to Ohtani’s determination to be a two-way player in the majors.
“It obviously puts him out of pitching in 2019, but he’ll be able to hit, and I think he’s at peace with that,” Scioscia said. “He wants to excel at both phases of the game. The fact he can’t pitch (next season), there is a little bit of a void. But he’ll be able to hit and focus on that.”
Ohtani went 4-2 with a 3.31 ERA and 63 strikeouts in 10 mostly outstanding starts for the Angels, but he has pitched just once since early June after developing a strained right elbow. He returned to the mound Sept. 2 but incurred more damage to his elbow ligament.
The 24-year-old Ohtani has continued as the Angels’ designated hitter. He is batting .280 with 57 RBIs after hitting his 21st homer Monday. Ohtani is a top contender for the AL Rookie of the Year award despite his truncated pitching season.
He is the first player in major league history to hit at least 15 homers and strike out at least 50 batters in a single season, and he joined Babe Ruth as the only players ever to hit 15 homers and pitch 50 innings. Ohtani and Ruth are the only players since 1900 to hit 10 homers while winning at least four games.