Doctors reportedly believe Shohei Ohtani should sit out entire 2024 season to remain a top pitcher

Los Angeles Angels star Shohei Ohtani was poised to win AL MVP in 2023 and then cash in this winter on a record-setting contract that made him one of the highest-paid MLB players ever. Now, that and a lot more could be in jeopardy due to his recent injury.

After experiencing discomfort in his elbow and then playing through it, Ohtani was diagnosed with a torn UCL. While the Angels never revealed the extent of the tear, which has an influence on possible surgery, Los Angeles shut him down from pitching for the remainder of the year.

  • Shohei Ohtani stats (pitching): 3.14 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 167-55 K-BB, 10-5 record in 132 innings pitched

Related: Shohei Ohtani home run tracker

The UCL tear immediately cut into Ohtani’s potential earnings in free agency this offseason. MLB teams are now viewing him as a hitter only in 2024, with a return to pitching viewed as unlikely next season. While Ohtani is expected to finish out the year playing in the Angels’ lineup, it remains a mystery whether or not he will undergo surgery.

It would be the second Tommy John surgery of Ohtani’s major-league career. When he last underwent the procedure in October 2018, he returned to the Angels’ lineup on May 9, 2019, then returned to the mound in 2020. Already 29 years old, the Japanese superstar wouldn’t pitch in 2024 and could experience a delayed return to the mound in 2025 if he holds off on surgery.

According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, doctors believe that if Ohtani undergoes Tommy John surgery, the best path for him to return as an elite pitcher is to sit out the entire 2024 season.

  • Shohei Ohtani hitting stats: .307/.411/.661, 1.072 OPS, 44 home runs, 95 RBI

Choosing that path would have significant ramifications for the three-time All-Star. While teams have previously signed pitchers in free agency who were recovering from Tommy John surgery, it’s always a two-year deal with a low salary in the first season.

Undergoing Tommy John surgery and then not playing any baseball in 2024 would also have a significant influence on Ohtani’s long-term earning power. By the time he returned to baseball, he would be heading into his age-31 season and had already undergone TJS twice in his pro career.

However, there are risks with the alternative. Undergoing TJS and still contributing to a team as a hitter in 2024 puts Ohtani at risk of never recapturing his elite form on the mound. If he opts to rehab the UCL tear or undergo a platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injection, used to avoid surgery, he could easily suffer a setback early next season that sidelines him through 2025.

The Angels have essentially already waved the white flag on their 2023 season by waiving some of their best players, so there’s a chance Ohtani will make a final decision in the next few weeks. Whatever path he chooses will have significant consequences and benefits that effect his next contract and the rest of his career.

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