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Ohtani's injury it's worse that we all first thought

Bad news!

Shohei Ohtani

Shohei Ohtani | AP

The Angels will place two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani on the disabled list with a Grade 2 sprain of the ulnar collateral ligament in his right pitching elbow, the team announced Friday. Ohtani, who received both platelet-rich plasma and stem-cell injections on Thursday in Los Angeles, will be re-evaluated in three weeks.

Original reports indicated Ohtani would miss his scheduled start Wednesday in Seattle due to a resurfaced blister on his right middle finger, but Friday's announcement points to something much more serious.

Last December, Yahoo! Sports reported that Ohtani had received a PRP injection to repair damage to his UCL, though Major League clubs were aware of the pre-existing condition during their feverish courtship of the Japanese star. Angels general manager Billy Eppler later confirmed that Ohtani received the PRP shot for a "first-degree sprain," which is seen as the least severe of UCL injuries. The latest announcement of a Grade 2 sprain for Los Angeles' budding star would seem to indicate the tear has gotten worse.

"He underwent a thorough physical with MRI scans to both his elbow and shoulder, scans that we conduct whenever we sign a pitcher," Eppler told MLB.com in December. "Based on the readings of the MRIs, there are no signs of acute or new trauma in the elbow. His elbow looked consistent with pitchers at his age and usage level. We were pleased with the results of the physical, and we are happy to have the player."

Ohtani was deemed at the time to be able to "continue full baseball participation with sufficient elbow care," but Friday's announcement casts new questions on the health of his prized right arm. He was forced to exit four innings into his Wednesday start against the Royals, and that exit was originally attributed to a blister that first troubled him during his April 17 start against the Red Sox that flared up again. Ohtani allowed one run on four hits and three walks to Kansas City before heading to the dugout.

 

A handful of Major League pitchers, including Yankees star Masahiro Tanaka, have been able to pitch through partial UCL tears without requiring elbow surgery. Ohtani's performance didn't appear to be suffering in the early part of the season, as he began 4-1 with a 3.10 ERA while holding opponents to a .202 batting average in nine starts and continually reaching triple digits on the radar gun. He also dazzled at the plate, hitting .289 with six home runs and a .907 OPS over 129 plate appearances as a designated hitter or pinch-hitter.

Ohtani is the first player to regularly appear as both a pitcher and hitter full-time since Babe Ruth a century ago.

Matt Kelly MLB.com

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