Agent: Shohei Ohtani Intends To Play In 2024, Continue As Two-Way Player Despite UCL Tear


Image credit: Shohei Ohtani (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

ANAHEIM, Calif.—As expected, Shohei Ohtani’s right elbow will require medical intervention.

Ohtani’s agent Nez Balelo said before Monday’s game against the Orioles that it is “inevitable” Ohtani will require “some kind of procedure” to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow, although he declined to specify which procedures are being considered. Balelo said Ohtani suffered a tear in a different part of the ligament than when he tore his UCL in 2018, which ultimately required Tommy John surgery. Whether Ohtani needs a second Tommy John surgery, a lesser surgery such as an internal brace procedure or a nonsurgical option remains to be determined.

Regardless of what procedure Ohtani has, his agent said the 29-year-old intends to continue pitching and hitting as a two-way player.

“I’m just telling you right now that Shohei, 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.

Ohtani has continued to DH since tests revealed a tear in his UCL after he left during the second inning of his start against the Reds on Aug. 23. Shortly after Balelo spoke, Ohtani was scratched from Monday’s lineup with a right oblique tightness after he took an awkward swing during batting practice.

Ohtani is batting .304 with a major league-leading 44 home runs and 1.066 OPS and went 10-5, 3.14 with 167 strikeouts in 132 innings on the mound this season. His injury status has clouded his pitching outlook for the foreseeable future, but Balelo said Ohtani intends to continue hitting next season even if he has a second Tommy John surgery.

Ohtani delayed his first Tommy John surgery until after the 2018 regular season and returned as a hitter on May 7 the following year. Ohtani hit .286 with 18 home runs that season, the fewest of his career in a 162-game season.

“I do know this: no matter what timetable we’re dealing with and when we get this done, Shohei is going to be in somebody’s lineup next year DHing when the bell rings,” Balelo said. “We know that.”

Ohtani is set to be a free agent after this season and was expected to command the largest contract in major league history as a premier slugger and ace-caliber pitcher all in one. Whether he will still receive a record-breaking contract in light of his second UCL tear is in question, but Balelo said that’s not his or Ohtani’s focus right now.

“We’ll tackle free agency when it comes,” Balelo said. “I’m not worried about free agency.”

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