Shohei Ohtani’s agent, Nez Balelo, painted the picture of an optimistic recovery for his injured client Monday afternoon at Angel Stadium.
“Everything’s good… he’s going to be fine,” he said.
About 90 minutes later, Ohtani — who had taken batting practice for just the fourth time this season — was scratched from the Angels’ starting lineup against the Baltimore Orioles because of right oblique tightness, the Angels announced.
Video captured by Yuki Yamada of Sankei Sports showed Ohtani swinging awkwardly, then walking to the dugout with his head down as he made his way to the clubhouse.
Ohtani, set to become a free agent after the World Series, will not pitch again this season after he tore his ulnar collateral ligament last month. He has not spoken to the media since sustaining the injury.
“As you know, he is very particular about things and he is going to continue to just play out as long as we possibly can and until we make decisions, but there’s really no need for him to address the media,” Balelo said. “I’m addressing this for him, and on behalf of all of us… but we’re just going to let him continue to play and do what he loves to do and respect that.”
Balelo answered a number of questions ranging from whether Ohtani will need surgery to his relationship with the team.
“Shohei is in a good place,” Balelo said. “His spirits are high. He’s playing. Everything’s good. So I don’t want anybody to think that he’s not.”
Although Balelo thinks it is “inevitable” Ohtani will have some kind of procedure done, he said that they were still in the process of determining their options. He said they do not have a timeline on when a procedure might happen and he declined to discuss specifics on what kind of procedure they might pursue.
“Clearly, there’s been multiple opinions and we’re not just banking on one or two,” Balelo said. “We’re really trying to educate ourselves in this situation.”
Balelo said they anticipate Ohtani returning as a designated hitter at the start of next season.
“Shohei is going to be in somebody’s lineup DHing when the bell rings,” he said. “We know that. We’re not going to push that. He’s going to be good to go.”
Ohtani suffered his latest UCL tear during the first game of a doubleheader on Aug. 23. Balelo confirmed that the UCL reconstruction Ohtani underwent in 2018 via Tommy John surgery remains intact.
“This is a best-case scenario,” Balelo said regarding the feedback they received from multiple doctors.
Amid criticism over the Angels’ handling of Ohtani’s health, general manager Perry Minasian told reporters Aug. 26 that the team offered to conduct imaging after Ohtani experienced a finger cramp earlier in the month, but the two-way star declined. Minasian suggested the Angels were proactive, offering to do imaging exams after Ohtani reported a finger cramp on Aug. 3 against the Seattle Mariners. Ohtani and Balelo were not worried the cramp was a symptom of a deeper problem and declined imaging, Minasian said.
“I consulted with Shohei after, we talked through it,” said Belelo, who emphasized the relationship between Ohtani and the team remains the same. “If you noticed in the sixth or seventh inning, the cramp went away, he hit a home run to tie the game and he stole a base. He was fine. There wasn’t any issue with the elbow, no issue with the shoulder. He was good to go.”
Heading into Monday, Ohtani led the majors in on-base-plus-slugging rate (1.066) and shared the lead in home runs (44) and triples (8). He led the American League in walks (91) and on-base percentage (.412) and was tied atop the AL in runs scored (102). He’s also batting .304 with a .654 slugging rate.
“We all feel extremely positive based on information that we’re getting, that he’s going to be fine,” Belelo said. “The outpouring of love and well wishes, all of that, have just been overwhelming and we do appreciate it.”