Ohtani scratched from Angels’ lineup, agent is optimistic on return next year

Robert Edwards-USA TODAY Sports
Shohei Ohtani's agent, Nez Balelo, remains optimistic about his recovery, assuring that Ohtani plans to return to both pitching and batting in the future.

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Over a week after it was revealed that Shohei Ohtani will not pitch again this season due to a tear in the ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching arm, Ohtani’s agent, Nez Balelo, spoke to the media Monday with a much more hopeful outlook for his client’s recovery.

“Based on what I’ve been gathering from doctors and specialists, is that there is some positivity that’s going to come out of this and we feel good about it,” Balelo said.

Then the injury bug bit Ohtani again.

Just over an hour before first pitch, Ohtani was scratched from the lineup, where he was originally slated to DH in the No. 2 spot, after he appeared to injure himself during batting practice Monday. The Angels announced Ohtani would be unavailable for the game against the Baltimore Orioles due to right oblique tightness.

Balelo went on to say that Ohtani’s tear is located in a different section of his UCL, specifically at the lower portion of the ligament near the bone and the initial repair from 2018 is still in place.

Ohtani did not speak to the media Monday, he has not spoken to the media since Aug. 9, after he pitched against the San Francisco Giants, his last outing on the mound before his UCL tear against the Cincinnati Reds on Aug. 23.

Balelo confirmed that Ohtani declined to undergo imaging for his pitching arm after leaving a four-inning start against the Mariners due to cramping in his right middle finger on August 3rd.

“He is very particular about things and he is going to continue to just play out as long as we possibly can and until we make decisions, but there’s really no need for him to address the media,” Balelo said. “I’m addressing this for him, and on behalf of all of us.”

Balelo said he expects Ohtani to undergo a medical procedure in the near future, but did not specify whether it would be Tommy John surgery, or whether it would happen before the end of this season. Balelo added that he did not think the procedure would prevent Ohtani from finishing this season as a DH or being a DH next season.

Shohei (Ohtani) is going to be in somebody’s lineup next year; DHing when the bell rings.

Nez Balelo, Shoehei Ohtani’s agent

“Shohei (Ohtani) is going to be somebody’s lineup next year DHing when the bell rings.”

With perhaps the most-sought after free agency in MLB history looming for Ohtani, Balelo was not willing to speak too much on the matter.

Balelo emphasized that Ohtani’s bond with the Angels is unaffected by the injury, adding that he has been consulting with the front office through the process. He expressed confidence in the Angels prioritizing Ohtani’s well-being, noting that there were no elbow concerns until he tore the UCL during the game against Cincinnati.

When asked if he and his client would be pursuing a shorter contract following the news of the injury, Balelo was quick to shift his focus on this season.

”Right now that’s the furthest on my mind, let’s just deal with the immediate right now and we’ll cover that later,” Balelo said.

When asked about Ohtani’s ability to continue to pitch and DH in the future, Balelo said his client has no doubts.

“There’s not a question in his mind that he’s going to come back and he’s going to continue to do both, like we have the last few years,” Balelo said.

There is no timetable for Ohtani’s return.