Angels GM Billy Eppler said today that he anticipates star pitcher/DH Shohei Ohtani to return as a hitter regardless of his status on the mound, Jim Duquette of Sirius XM Radio tweets (with some audio available on Twitter as well). Ohtani, who had taken the majors by storm this year after coming over from Japan, was diagnosed earlier this month with a grade 2 sprain of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.
Ohtani is set to be evaluated tomorrow after resting for several weeks following a platelet-rich plasma injection. But the medical review will not be necessary to determine his availability to resume hitting. As Eppler explains, if Ohtani “was only a DH … he would’ve been cleared right away.”
Rather, the focus at present is on ensuring that Ohtani has the best possible chance of returning to the mound without requiring Tommy John surgery. Whether or not he’ll even be able to try to accomplish that this season remains to be seen. But it seems there was a concern that allowing him to hit right away could jeopardize the ligament.
The point of the three-week layoff, per Eppler, was to make sure the area around the UCL “has plenty of time to scar and heal.” Presumably, that’s largely what will be assessed tomorrow.
Whatever the likelihood is of Ohtani returning to the bump in 2018, the Halos will surely be anxious to get his bat back in the lineup if possible. Since Ohtani went down, the Halos have gone just 5-11.