ANAHEIM -- It's official.
The Angels announced Tuesday that Shohei Ohtani will undergo Tommy John surgery to repair a damaged ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow during the first week of the offseason. The procedure will be performed by Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles.
Ohtani received a Tommy John surgery recommendation Sept. 5 after an MRI exam revealed new damage to his pitching elbow, but the 24-year-old rookie spent some time processing the news and consulting with the Angels' medical staff before formally agreeing to the surgery. The procedure, which generally entails a recovery period of 14-16 months, is expected to keep Ohtani off the mound until the 2020 season.
Still, Ohtani should be able to return as a hitter in 2019, giving the Angels an impact power bat to slot into the middle of their order on a more regular basis. Ohtani had hoped to avoid surgery after receiving platelet-rich plasma and stem-cell injections in June, but he said he can at least take some solace in his unique ability to continue to contribute to the club while he rehabs his elbow.
"I am disappointed at the fact that I'm not going to be able to pitch next season, but I'm trying to make positives out of the negatives," Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. "Normal players, guys that only pitch or hit, they wouldn't be able to play at all next season, but fortunately, I have the luxury of being able to play as a hitter next season. I'm just trying to take positive stuff out of that and try to help the team win as many games as possible as a hitter."
Manager Mike Scioscia said the Angels will have a better idea of when Ohtani will be available to hit after he undergoes the surgery. Scioscia added that there are "too many variables" to know whether Ohtani will be ready by Opening Day.
"We're waiting to get direction from the medical department on that, but certainly he'll be hitting before he's pitching," Scioscia said. "I think we'll wait for Dr. ElAttrache to do the surgery, see how the rehab goes and see what that date is."
Position players typically return to the field in less time following Tommy John, such as Yankees rookie infielder Gleyber Torres, who missed about half a season in 2017 after tearing the UCL in his non-throwing elbow. Dodgers star Corey Seager underwent Tommy John surgery this past May, and he's expected to be on the team's Opening Day roster in '19. Other notable position players to receive the surgery include former MLB outfielder Carl Crawford, Angels infielder Zack Cozart, Twins third baseman Miguel Sano and Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez -- all of whom were able to return to the field in a year's time or sooner.
Ohtani, who throws right-handed and bats left-handed, could also benefit from the fact that he doesn't play a defensive position and has been used exclusively as a designated hitter by the Angels. His damaged elbow ligament certainly hasn't held him back offensively over the past few weeks. Since receiving the surgery recommendation, Ohtani has batted .297 with a 1.009 OPS, five home runs and 12 RBIs over 18 games, helping him re-establish himself as a favorite in the American League Rookie of the Year race.
"It's remarkable the way he's able to separate putting that batting helmet on and putting that cap on to go out and pitch," Scioscia said. "I think he put all his focus into hitting once he knew he wasn't going to be pitching this year. I think the decision to have surgery, obviously, puts him out of pitching for 2019. But I think he's at peace with it, and I think he's focused on hitting, He's putting all his efforts into that."
Ohtani, who batted cleanup against the Rangers on Tuesday, is hitting .280 with a .925 OPS, 21 home runs, 56 RBIs and nine stolen bases on the season. Prior to the elbow injury, he logged a 3.31 ERA over 10 starts while striking out 63 hitters over 51 2/3 innings.
"It's been a small sample size of just one season, so I can't really say that I've proved to the world that I can continue being a two-way player," Ohtani said. "I need to keep on improving each year, and hopefully, I will be able to prove that I can continue as a two-way player. But next year, I'm going to be rehabbing as a pitcher, so that's what I'm going to be focused on. I'll try to get stronger and come back."