Shohei Ohtani is finished pitching for the year, but that doesn't mean he's finished for the year.
The Los Angeles Angels' two-way star will continue playing as a designated hitter while he and the Angels seek additional treatment options for his UCL tear, according to Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register. That includes this weekend's series against the New York Mets after the Angels' day off Thursday.
Ohtani exited his start Wednesday due to what the team called arm fatigue, and his torn UCL diagnosis was announced later that night. Ohtani didn't remain in that game as a designated hitter, but he did hit in the second leg of the day's doubleheader.
He's now seeking second opinions regarding Tommy John surgery.
So far, the situation is similar to how the Angels handled Ohtani's previous major UCL injury during his rookie MLB year in 2018. After being recommended to undergo Tommy John surgery in early September of that season, Ohtani continued to play as a full-time DH for the rest of the season before going under the knife on Oct. 1.
Following surgery, Ohtani didn't pitch at all in 2019 and returned to the mound in 2020.
A second Tommy John surgery is almost always more serious than the first, with a rehab timetable usually spanning more than a year. The odds of Ohtani pitching in 2024 appear to be slim, with his future as a pitcher now in question at the most financially inconvenient time possible.
What's next for Shohei Ohtani?
If Ohtani's UCL is indeed torn, it seems inconceivable that he'll get a recommendation that doesn't include Tommy John surgery. At that point, he and the Angels can decide if continuing to hit in a failed season — the Angels are 61-67 and 10.5 games out of a wild-card spot — is worth it.
Ohtani is set to enter free agency this offseason and will likely shatter the record for MLB's richest contract, currently held by Angels teammate Mike Trout and his 12-year, $426.5 million deal. Ohtani has enough value as a hitter that he could still match that contract, but teams might be apprehensive about paying him like a true two-way superstar.
Continuing to hit might come with injury risk, but Ohtani is apparently fine with that. He has already all but clinched a second AL MVP award, as his production on the mound and in the batter's box in four-and-a-half months has given him 8.6 FanGraphs WAR, well ahead of second-place Bobby Witt Jr. and his 5.1 mark.
It's unclear, once Ohtani returns as a pitcher, for which team he will be pitching, how much money he will be making and, most importantly, how effective he will be. The list of pitchers who have returned from a second Tommy John surgery and looked like themselves is short, but Ohtani has done nothing but show himself to be an exception to rules since he joined Major League Baseball.