Shohei Ohtani's time as a pitcher is over for the season. But the Angels would like to make it clear that wasn't their fault.
The Los Angeles Angels phenom was diagnosed with a torn UCL earlier this week, likely putting him on a path to a second Tommy John surgery and disrupting what was expected to be the most lucrative free agency in MLB history.
It's devastating news for all involved, but the timeline in which the injury was discovered has become a topic of debate for some. Angels general manager Perry Minasian, perhaps feeling the heat, did his best to make clear that any injury didn't go unnoticed due to the team's negligence, telling reporters Saturday that Ohtani and his agent turned down an MRI earlier this month after he cramped up in a start.
Perry Minasian just revealed that the Angels offered to do an MRI on Ohtani’s arm after his cramping episode earlier this month and Ohtani and his agent refused because they didn’t think it was necessary.
— Jeff Fletcher (@JeffFletcherOCR) August 26, 2023
Minasian reportedly added that Ohtani didn't mention any elbow pain until the day the injury was noticed.
Here's a quick timeline of Ohtani's pitching this month:
Aug. 3: Ohtani is pulled from a start after four innings due to finger cramping.
Aug. 9: Ohtani throws six innings with one unearned run in his final win of the season.
Aug. 13: The Angels announce Ohtani will miss his next turn in the rotation due to "arm fatigue."
Aug. 13-22: Ohtani plays every day as the Angels' designated hitter.
Aug. 23, Game 1: Ohtani leaves his start after five batters, and the Angels announce he was removed due to arm fatigue.
Aug. 23, Game 2: Ohtani plays as designated hitter.
Aug. 23, postgame: Ohtani is announced to have a torn UCL.
Looking at that sequence of events, you might wonder if there is reason to believe Ohtani was already seriously injured or in danger of serious injury before he took the mound Aug. 23. The Angels certainly seemed prepared for him to exit early that day, as they had starting pitcher Tyler Anderson ready to pitch 4 2/3 innings in relief.
Ohtani clearly wasn't feeling well for most of the month, and that led to a lot of people second-guessing the Angels not taking a closer look at his arm, especially after his arm fatigue caused him to miss a start. Minasian's comment Saturday places responsibility for that lack of action directly on Ohtani.
Whether that's fair or not (players will often turn down MRIs if they're feeling fine, something Angels manager Phil Nevin said Saturday that he did in his own playing career), the decision on how to move forward fully belongs to Ohtani.
The 29-year-old is currently pursuing second opinions on a potential second Tommy John surgery. Ohtani underwent the procedure after his rookie season in 2018 and spent 2019 as a full-time hitter while rehabbing, but the increased risks of undergoing the procedure a second time might make it harder for him to hit in 2024.
That will undoubtedly weigh heavily as the Angels and other teams bid for his talents this winter.