Los Angeles Angels superstar Shohei Ohtani has continued to hit despite being shut down from pitching for the rest of the season.
Last month Ohtani was diagnosed with a partial tear in his ulnar collateral ligament and on Monday his agent, Nez Balelo, told reporters that it was “inevitable” that the baseball star would have to have “some kind of procedure.”
What procedure is uncertain, but Balelo was making two things clear.
Ohtani is expected to be ready to hit at the start of the 2024 season and he will return to the mound at some point.
Balelo even went as far as to say the issue was the “best-case scenario” since the Tommy John surgery repair Ohtani had back in 2018 remained intact.
“Shohei’s gonna be fine,” Balelo told reporters in Anaheim, according to ESPN. “Is he gonna pitch the rest of the year? No. We already know that. Is he gonna get into next year? We don’t know yet. So just bear with me on that.
“But I do know this — no matter what timetable we’re dealing with and when we get this done, Shohei’s gonna be in somebody’s lineup next year, DHing when the bell rings. We know that. We’re not gonna push that. He’s gonna be good to go.”
Ohtani is expected to sign a record contract when he hits the open market in the winter, but teams will surely be monitoring his progress. There are a number of procedures that Ohtani could undergo, which would likely include Tommy John surgery or a new bracing procedure that is less invasive.
If Balelo’s words are any indication, it doesn’t sound like getting Ohtani on the mound will be a likely option next season.
He posted a 3.14 ERA with 167 strikeouts in 132 innings on the mound this season and last pitched on Aug. 23.
At the plate, Ohtani has gone 9-for-30 in the nine games since his time on the mound this season came to an end.
He was held out of Monday’s game against the Baltimore Orioles due to right oblique tightness and Balelo wouldn’t commit to Ohtani continuing to hit this season.
“There’s not a question in his mind that he’s gonna come back and he’s gonna continue to do both,” Balelo said.
Even with the injury issues, Ohtani’s mark on this season had already been cemented and he has a pretty good chance of winning AL MVP.
Ohtani has a slash line of .304/.412/.654 with his OPS (1.066) and home runs (44) both leading the major leagues.
“He can lift, he can run, he can slide, take violent swings,” Balelo said. “He can do anything he wants right now. It doesn’t affect the problem in question. We’re good. Whatever we decide to get done, we have to take into consideration next year. The way the timetable is going to play out, he’s gonna be fine when the bell rings in ’24.”
All eyes will be on Ohtani this winter as he decides where he will take his baseball career.
Balelo did not get into details about what the superstar is looking for in his next contract or what his chances of staying in Anaheim are.
With some sort of procedure on the horizon, it’s certain to play a part in how Ohtani’s free agency will play out.