Japanese righthanded ace and slugger Shohei Otani—who tells “60 Minutes” he wants to play in the majors next season—will miss as much as six weeks after straining a muscle in his left thigh.
The Kyodo news agency reported Sunday that Otani—the 2016 Pacific League MVP—was trying to beat out an infield single in the first inning of a loss to Orix and limped off the field. Otani was the DH for Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters.
Otani is also the team’s best pitcher, but has not been able to pitch in a game since hurting his right ankle last November in the Japan Series. He was dropped from Japan’s World Baseball Classic roster because of the injury.
Otani is coming off of a season that saw him go 10-4, 1.86 with 174 strikeouts and 45 walks in 140 innings. He also hit .332/.416/.588 with 22 home runs in 104 games as the team's DH.
Because Otani is only 22, he would cost himself millions by coming to the United States after this season. A team signing him would be subject to international bonus pool restrictions. The only exceptions to the international signing rules are for players who are 23 or older and have played five or more seasons in a recognized professional league. Otani will have met both requirements after the 2017 season. But a salary cap for foreign players under the age of 25 would set the maximum he could be paid by any big league team at $6 million.
But Otani told CBS for the “60 Minutes” interview airing tonight that, “Personally, I don't care how much I get paid or how much less I get paid because of this.”