It would be a shame if the latest Japanese import sensation turned out to be less than advertised due to health concerns.

The courtship and eventual signing of Shohei Ohtani by the Los Angeles Angles has had something of a mythic quality to it. A guy who can blast homers, strike out batters and didn’t necessarily want to go play with the team offering the most money seemed almost too good to be true.

Maybe it is. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports is reporting that Ohtani has a damaged ulnar collateral ligament, or UCL, in his right elbow. That follows up on a Sports Illustrated story about Ohtani receiving a platelet-rich elbow injection, which makes sense now in the wake of the physical Passan cites.

The fact that the injury is to Ohtani’s pitching elbow is the real cause for consternation, though the report obtained by Yahoo Sports suggested that he could begin throwing in November and might not need further treatment. The downside is that further damage to the UCL is a leading cause of Tommy John surgery. And while pitchers can and often do come back fine from that procedure there days, that’s definitely not what the Angels, and Major League Baseball in general, had in mind for an opening chapter to the Ohtani story in the U.S.

An interesting thought, then, since most teams viewed Ohtani as a pitcher first and slugger second, is whether he might end up playing more DH and pitching less than Los Angeles has first envisioned. That might be a way to get more value out of their new signee in his rookie season while preserving better chances at long term health.

Regardless, it’s a subplot worth watching, one that could bring some gloom to an otherwise fascinating feel-good story for the Angels in 2018.



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