Why a Shohei Ohtani body double was used in Angels’ team photo

There’s Mike Trout (not smiling).

There’s Anthony Rendon (actually in uniform).

Where’s Shohei Ohtani?

The Angels shot their team photo Tuesday before their home game against the Baltimore Orioles. A tall man wearing Ohtani’s No. 17 stood in the back row. But it wasn’t him. It was a body double, a stand-in, likely a team employee pretending to be the unicorn, the greatest baseball player in the world.

Oh, my. Oh, the symbolism. Oh, Ohtani.

The Angels’ two-way superstar is famously loathe to miss a game. He never wants to sit. Apparently, he didn’t want to stand, either.

Or he was unable to because an injury described as right oblique tightness was being evaluated. Manager Phil Nevin said Ohtani told him through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara that he wanted to play Tuesday but that Nevin had decided “today was not a good day for him.”

And it wasn’t a good day for the Angels, who lost 6-5 in 10 innings to slip 11 games under .500.

As far as the photo goes, Nevin indicated the Angels can save face by employing image editing and insert Ohtani’s head onto the body double, who was escorted off the field through the bullpen gate after the photo.

Barring a miracle, the last time Ohtani’s face will sit atop an Angels uniform will be Oct. 1 during the last game of the season. He’ll then become a free agent and is not expected to re-sign with the team with which he’s spent six losing seasons.

Ohtani’s free agency is complicated by the torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. His agent, Nez Balelo, said Monday it is “inevitable” Ohtani will have a procedure done on his elbow and that Ohtani and doctors are reviewing the options.

“We’re really trying to educate ourselves in this situation,” said Balelo, who added he expects Ohtani to be available as a designated hitter at the start of next season.

In the short term, Ohtani will attempt to bat as often as possible through September and add to his 95 RBIs, 20 stolen bases and league-leading 44 home runs, .412 on-base percentage and 1.066 on-base-plus-slugging percentage.

Ohtani has missed only four games all season — including the last two — and only five last season. He became the face of the franchise, eclipsing even Trout. Unless the oblique continues barking, it’ll remain that way for 23 more games. No stand-in required.