After learning that Shohei Ohtani, every GM’s top prize for the ongoing offseason, decided to sign with the Los Angeles Angels, many fans/writers/randos, after collecting their breath and doing their best to make the world stop spinning and their hearts not explode, began to wonder about the details of this momentous acquistion. Specifically...WHY?
Why did Ohtani choose the Halos? What was the thing that tipped him over the edge into Angels territory, eschewing six other finalist teams in the process? Well, after reading Jeff Passan’s report this evening, I think I’ve got it: Ohtani chose the Halos because he felt, due to the amount of devastating and maddening elbow injuries their pitching staff has been dealt in recent years, that they’d be best equipped to handle the news that the stud Japanese ballplayer you just signed could possibly be another one added to that infamous injury list.
Yes, it’s somewhat troubling, or A LOT troubling, depending upon your levels of pessimism and your faith in PRP injections. The last thing you want to read a few days after feeling pure fan joy is that Ohtani, your new favorite dude, has a first-degree UCL sprain. That’s according to a copy of Ohtani’s physical, obtained by Passan, that was sent out to MLB clubs during the free agency process.
Of course, it should be noted that we already knew that Ohtani had an issue in his pitching elbow, right? Sports Illustrated had that story yesterday, so when I first saw Passan’s article, I thought it was old news. The difference in stories, however, is three letters: U, C and L. Passan’s piece had details, which weren’t available in the SI article, namely that the exact issue with Ohtani’s elbow pertained to his UCL.
So what to make of this big detail getting thrown out there for the purveyors of MLB schadenfreude to feast upon? I am not worried. Yet.
It’s not ideal, but it’s also not any reason to freak out. Not yet, at least. Yes, there are some players who have had that sprain turn into the dreaded Tommy John surgery, but not all of those guys had the PRP injections or other top notch, cutting edge treatments. Ohtani already had his PRP treatment, FYI, and he was told by the doctor that he could resume throwing in about 30 days after the PRP business went down.
It’s been more than 30 days since the elbow was tended to, so Ohtani is already on the road back and he will be good to go come next season. Well, barring any setback, which could never, ever...ok, ok, I’m just trying to trick myself into believing that we wont ever have our hearts immeasurably broken by an Ohtani UCL catastrophe that then leads to Tommy John and him being put on the shelf for a season or so.
It COULD happen. Right now, though, it’s worrying about milk that has yet to be spilled or even poured into the glass. So let’s just take a few dozen steps back from the ledge, and RELAX. The Angels, and every other team in on the pitcher/slugger, knew about this elbow soreness, and the PRP, and they still were hounding him for his services. Also, as Dylan Hernandez of the L.A. Times points out, it’s just a sprain and it is easy to blow it out of proportion:
Re: Ohtani: I'm told that with a first-degree sprain, there are no problems with the integrity of the ligament. Just irritation/inflammation. Better not to have, obviously, but should be able to recover without surgery. Second-degree sprain would be considerably worse.— Dylan Hernandez (@dylanohernandez) December 13, 2017
Also of note is Billy Eppler’s response to Passan’s article tonight. He spoke with media before about the injection treament (the aforementioned SI story, for instance), but had said it was strictly precautionary. The OC Register reached out to Eppler this evening, and in response to the Yahoo article, the rock star GM had this to say:
“Shohei underwent a thorough physical with MRI scans to both his elbow and his shoulder,” General Manager Billy Eppler said in a statement after the story broke on Tuesday night. “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.”
So Billy has confidence, and I have confidence in Billy’s confidence. Don’t you?
Still, if any fan base should be allowed to worry even just a little teensy bit, it’d be Angels fans. We’ve been through quite an injury apocalypse in recent memory, we’ve also made it through a front office apocalypse and some dismal, doomsday teams, but that ship has been turned around and we’re no longer so ready to accept a sad, pitiful fate in those departments.
Therefore, we got to believe that not every pitcher that has a little bit of an iffy elbow is going to have the worst possibility turn into a reality; sometimes, they heal up some and never do hit that DL. They may lose some fire on the fastball and some other pieces of their arsenal, but that’s a different type of discussion for another day. As Halos fans, first and foremost, we just don’t want him to have a brooding TJ scar on his elbow, and if Ohtani can avoid that giant setback, we can chalk it up to a win.
For now, I will continue to ride this emotional high, courtesy of Billy Eppler and Shohei Ohtani, sprained UCL be damned. That’s the power of low expectations and amazing free agent signings, I guess.