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Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Shohei Ohtani has elbow surgery, expects to hit in ’24, pitch in ’25

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Shohei Ohtani finally had surgery on his damaged elbow on Tuesday morning.

Although the statement released by Ohtani’s agent did not specify the exact surgery, a quote attributed to Dr. Neal ElAttrache would suggest that Ohtani did not require a full reconstruction of the elbow, which is commonly referred to as Tommy John surgery.

“The ultimate plan after deliberation with Shohei, was to repair the issue at hand and to reinforce the healthy ligament in place while adding viable tissue for the longevity of the elbow,” ElAttrache said in the statement released by agent Nez Balelo. “I expect full recovery and he’ll be ready to hit without any restrictions come opening day of 2024 and do both (hit & pitch) come 2025.”

The tear in Ohtani’s ulnar collateral ligament this time was in a different place than the tear in 2018, Balelo had said earlier this month.

The description suggests that ElAttrache used the new “internal brace” technique, in which a thick suture-like material to provide strength to the ligament. It attracts collagen, a building block of soft tissue.

Ohtani had a traditional Tommy John surgery in October 2018, with a tendon removed from elsewhere in his body and transplanted as a graft to replace the damaged ligament. ElAttrache stopped short of repeating that procedure this time.

Following that procedure, Ohtani did not return to the Angels’ lineup as a hitter until May 2019. Earlier this month, Balelo said that the nature of this injury would allow him to come back more quickly as a hitter.

“I had a procedure done on my elbow earlier this morning and everything went very well,” Ohtani posted on his Instagram account. “Thank for very much for everyone’s prayers and kind words. It was very unfortunate that I couldn’t finish out the year on the field, but I will be rooting on the boys until the end. I will work as hard as I can and do my best to come back on the diamond stronger than ever.”

Ohtani. 29, is set to be a free agent at the end of the season and is expected to sign a record-breaking contract, perhaps for as much as $500 million.

(Although ElAttrache is the Dodgers team physician, nothing should be read into that regarding Ohtani’s free agency. ElAttrache routinely performs surgeries on athletes with other teams in other sports.)

He finished his third straight historic season in 2023, hitting .304 with 44 home runs and an OPS of 1.066. On the mound, he was 10-5 with a 3.14 ERA in 132 innings over 23 starts.

Ohtani is likely to win the American League MVP Award for the second time in the last three years.

He continued to hit for two weeks after suffering the elbow injury on Aug. 23, but on Sept. 4 he suffered an oblique injury that prevented him from hitting. He spent a week and a half trying to get back into the lineup until Friday, when an MRI of his oblique showed sufficient irritation to prevent him from hitting again this season.

Ohtani had his locker cleared out on Friday night in preparation to have surgery, but he returned to be in the dugout during the Angels’ games on Saturday and Sunday.

He is expected to be in uniform for the final homestand next week.

More to come on this story.

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