As reported by numerous sources (including Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register), most of Shohei Ohtani’s belongings were removed from the superstar’s locker at Angel Stadium last night. The Angels are expected to provide an update on Ohtani’s status later today.
Following Friday night’s 11-2 loss to the Tigers, Angels reporters noticed many of Ohtani’s possessions either packed up or missing entirely. Team staff declined to provide answers, other than to state that more information would be made available on Saturday.
The AL MVP frontrunner has not pitched in a game since August 23 nor taken a plate appearance since September 3. He is dealing with a tear in his right UCL, which prematurely ended his season as a pitcher, and inflammation in his right oblique, which has kept him out entirely for the past 11 games.
When Ohtani initially suffered his oblique injury, manager Phil Nevin told reporters (including Alden Gonzalez of ESPN) that it was “just a tiny bit of inflammation,” and he did not expect Ohtani to require a stint on the injured list. However, he also acknowledged that oblique injuries “can be finicky at times,” so the Angels would take things day-to-day with their star player and not rush him back onto the field. It’s possible that the issue has turned into something more than just “minor” inflammation.
Earlier this month, Ohtani’s agent Nez Balelo said it was “inevitable” his client would require an elbow procedure to repair his UCL this offseason. Given the uncertainty surrounding Ohtani’s oblique injury, perhaps he and the Angels have decided to get an early start on such a procedure. The two-way star has made it clear on several occasions that he wants to play out the 2023 season. Still, the Angels are all but eliminated from postseason contention, and the sooner he addresses his elbow concerns, the more appealing he’ll be to potential suitors in free agency. If his oblique injury could keep him on the shelf for the rest of the season anyway, he might be wise to get his UCL fixed sooner rather than later.
That said, it remains unclear if Ohtani’s empty locker has anything to do with his oblique or his UCL; there could be an entirely unrelated explanation. However, considering the announcement expected later today, it feels safe to presume this is more than just routine clubhouse cleaning.