Ahead of Monday’s opener of a three-game series with the Angels at Safeco Field comes news that the Mariners aren’t alone in personnel woes: Shohei Ohtani, the Los Angeles club’s star acquisition highly coveted by Seattle the past off-season, reportedly will undergo Tommy John elbow surgery and miss the remainder of year as well as the 2019 season.
“Everything I’m hearing is that the reality is, he probably will need Tommy John surgery,” ESPN’s Pedro Gomez reported Monday morning. “The earliest we might see him, should he have TJ surgery, would be the 2020 season.”
Ohtani was already on the disabled list with a grade two sprain of the ulnar collateral ligament. But the Angels claimed no decision had been made on surgery.
“I have not heard that — the doctors are obviously very confident that he’s going to get back out there,” manager Mike Scioscia told CBS Sports radio Monday. “We’re going to be very conservative with Shohei.
“We’ll see when, first and foremost, the elbow is sound enough to where he can swing a bat. I think that’ll happen before he’s going to be out on the mound pitching. But we’re very hopeful that he’s going to be pitching for us again this season.”
Angels GM Billy Eppler released a statement saying the diagnosis remains the same, per Fox Sports: “There have been no changes in Ohtani’s diagnosis and neither our physicians nor medical staff have recommended (Tommy John surgery) or said it’s likely.”
Ohtani, who turns 24 next month, has been as advertised regarding his ability to hit and pitch at a high level. He is 4-1 with a 3.10 ERA and 61 strikeouts in 49.1 innings. He’s batting .289 with six home runs and 20 RBIs.
Ohtani underwent platelet-rich plasma and stem cell injections to repair the damage, and hoped for positive results in three weeks.
The Angels had non-surgical success with another starter, Garrett Richards, who avoided the knife in 2016 by receiving stem cell treatment.
Ohtani also had a platelet-rich plasma injection on his pitching elbow in October.
The Mariners (41-24), winners of 17 of the past 22 and in the American League West lead, were very public in their pursuit of Ohtani as a free agent from Japan. They were reported to be among the finalists. But the Angels, who employed Jerry Dipoto before he became the Mariners general manager, swooped in and won the sweepstakes, surprising even themselves.
At the time it seemed a major blow for Seattle, desperate for starting pitching. But the Angels (37-29) are in third and now are the ones who may be in the market for pitching help if surgery for Ohtani comes to pass.