Baseball / MLB

Shohei Ohtani vows to come back stronger after knee surgery

Kyodo

Los Angeles Angels two-way star Shohei Ohtani showed how to handle an injury setback with grace Tuesday, saying he will benefit from his regret as he will use it as motivation to work harder.

Addressing the media for the first time since he underwent left knee surgery on Sept. 13, the 2018 American League Rookie of the Year said the rehab process is coming along smoothly and he feels better than his offensive statistics look in an injury-shortened season.

Ohtani, who also underwent elbow surgery last fall, finished his second major league season batting .286 with 18 homers and 62 RBIs in 106 games as the Angels’ designated hitter. The knee surgery interrupted the late stages of his throwing progression.

“It was a season full of regret for me personally and for the team. It’s good that I’m not satisfied with the stats. A few years ago I might have been,” Ohtani said.

“The best thing is having that feeling of regret. Carrying that feeling is going to help me train hard,” he said.

The 25-year-old Japanese, wearing a knee brace and walking with crutches, said he had been feeling pain in his knee for some time and wanted to take care of it this offseason for peace of mind.

The surgery was to repair a bipartite patella, a rare congenital condition in which the bones of his kneecap are unfused. It came with an estimated recovery period of 10 to 12 weeks.

On Tuesday, Ohtani had to temper the media’s expectations for his return to a two-way role for the start of spring training in 2020, saying he is taking one step at a time and will make his comeback when he has no reason to doubt he can play at a high level.

“The most important thing is to start out (the season) in full strength. I hope to bring myself to that level where I can play without any worries, then face the challenges,” he said.