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Heyman | Sources say Ohtani UCL tear is a new one

Jon Heyman



Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Angels seemed to do everything right for two-way sensation Shohei Ohtani, but sources say the Grade 2 tear found is a new tear, unrelated to the Grade 1 tear he was reported to have when he picked the Angels. 

Angels GM Billy Eppler declined to discuss anything related to the diagnosis that the Angels hadn’t publicly revealed, including whether it was a new tear. It isn’t known whether being a new and different tear affects his prognosis or timetable, which seems undetermined anyway, but it isn’t necessarily a negative. More important might be the location of the tear, which is not publicly known. 

Regardless, the Angels, after exhaustive consultations with Ohtani’s training people and his former team, had Ohtani on a lower general pitch count and the same once-a-week regimen. He averaged 112 pitches per start in 2016, and 106 in 2014, and he was averaging fewer than 100 with the Angels when they received the news of the tear for the phenom who’d hit 101 mph on the mound and wowed fans. He was averaging just 89 pitches per start with the Angels and reached 100 pitches just twice. 

“His usage was scaled back,” Eppler said by phone.

The Angels figured that with differences in the mound, ball, travel and many other things, they’d try to keep things as stress-free as possible. While there was a report that Tommy John surgery is likely, Eppler said they have not been told that by their doctors at Kerlan-Jobe or their medical people; the doctors recommended the issue be treated with PRP and stem cell injections in the hope that he can avoid surgery.

Angels star pitcher Garrett Richards did the same, and while he missed significant time on the mound, he ultimately avoided Tommy John surgery and is pitching well. Masahiro Tanaka is pitching through a Grade 1 tear, Ervin Santana and Felix Hernandez and many others have UCL issues and have been able to keep pitching effectively for years.

“There’s a number of pitchers pitching with it,” Eppler pointed out.

The Angels have been hit much harder than most teams with injuries to arms, but the ailment is at epidemic level throughout baseball.

The Angels seemed to treat Ohtani like the Godsend he is – an extreme talent on the mound as well as at the plate. Eppler called their approach a “thorough and well-reasoned process,” and by all other accounts, it appears to have been just that.

He also said not a day goes by where they don’t gather data and consider the issue.

Jon Heyman is an MLB Insider for FanRag Sports, featuring breaking news, information and his Inside Baseball column, which appears on every Thursday. Heyman also has been an insider at MLB Network since the channel launched in 2009 and is a regular contributor to WFAN in New York, where he appears weekly on the Joe and Evan Show and previously appeared on the Mike and the Mad Dog Show. He also appears on WSCR in Chicago, WBZ-FM in Boston and the Petros and Money Show on Fox in Los Angeles. Heyman comes to FanRag Sports from, where he worked for five years and wrote the popular Inside Baseball notes column. Before going to CBS, Heyman worked for five years at Sports Illustrated and, where he was a senior writer and started an Inside Baseball Column. Heyman worked for 16 years at Newsday in New York, where he was the Yankees beat writer, a baseball columnist and finally a general sports columnist. Heyman started his career at the Moline (Ill.) Daily Dispatch, then moved to the Los Angeles Copley Newspapers (Torrance Daily Breeze and Santa Monica Outlook) before going to Newsday. Heyman at one time also served as a national baseball writer for The Sporting News. Heyman is a graduate of Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. The Santa Fe, N.M. native grew up in Cedarhurst, N.Y., on Long Island.

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