Newly-signed Angels right-hander Shohei Ohtani has a first-degree sprain in his right ulnar collateral ligament, according to medical reports from late November viewed by Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan. It was reported yesterday by SI’s Tom Verducci that Ohtani received a platelet-rich plasma injection in his elbow in October, which was known to teams pursuing the 23-year-old two-way star. Ohtani’s agent Nez Balelo said the PRP shot was just “a preventative measure,” though it appears as though the injection was meant to help treat the pain caused by the UCL sprain.
A first-degree sprain is the least-serious type of UCL sprain, though clearly any type of elbow damage is of concern. Passan also notes that the medical reports state that a “small free body” is floating around Ohtani’s elbow area, close to his UCL.
Angels GM Billy Eppler didn’t express any concern with the report, in a statement to Passan this evening:
“Shohei underwent a thorough physical with MRI scans to both his elbow and his shoulder. Those are scans we conduct whenever we sign a pitcher. Based on the readings of those MRIs, there are not signs of acute trauma in the elbow. It looks consistent with players his age. We are pleased with the results of the physical and we are very happy to have the player.”
Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News believes the UCL sprain (along with the PRP injection) was disclosed in the medical records made available to teams. Furthermore, a scout for an unknown team tells SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo that “we already knew” about the elbow issue.
The news creates even more intrigue over Ohtani’s entrance into North American baseball, as if the unique circumstances of his posting, the near league-wide pursuit for his services, and his attempt to be a legitimately two-way player weren’t already enough. It should be noted that Ohtani is still roughly a month away from beginning normal baseball activities as a result of minor ankle surgery in October, so it won’t be known until then how his arm is holding up in the aftermath of the PRP injection. (Passan notes that Ohtani was recently seen playing catch in Japan.)
Some hurlers have been able to continue pitching through even more severe UCL damage, though that is a risky endeavor to say the least, and perhaps not a bet the Angels would want to make on a highly-touted player just beginning his Major League career. In another tweet, Grant notes that even if Ohtani does require Tommy John surgery, he still represents an enormous bargain for the Angels given his potential value and the relatively low cost they paid to obtain his services.