Ohtani has elbow surgery, expected to hit in '24, pitch by '25

September 19th, 2023

underwent elbow surgery Tuesday morning, agent Nez Balelo announced. The procedure was done with "a heavy emphasis on the big picture" of his career, Balelo said.

Ohtani, who posted a 3.14 ERA with 167 strikeouts over 132 innings this year, made the last of his 23 starts on Aug. 23, when a UCL tear forced him to switch exclusively to hitting for the rest of the season.

"I had a procedure done on my elbow earlier this morning and everything went very well," Ohtani said in a statement on his Instagram account. "Thank you very much for everyone’s prayers and kind words.

"It was very unfortunate that I couldn’t finish out the year on the field, but I will be rooting on the boys until the end.

"I will work as hard as I can and do my best to come back on the diamond stronger than ever."

"The ultimate plan after deliberation with Shohei was to repair the issue at hand and to reinforce the healthy ligament in place while adding viable tissue for the longevity of the elbow," said Dr. Neal ElAttrache, who performed the surgery. "I expect full recovery, and he'll be ready to hit without any restrictions come Opening Day of 2024 and do both [hit and pitch] come 2025."

You can read the full statement below and here.

Ohtani was ruled out for the season on Sunday due to a lingering oblique issue. He had been out of the lineup for 11 games before being placed on the 15-day injured list.

Despite missing most of the last month of the season, Ohtani remains the runaway favorite to take home this year's American League Most Valuable Player Award. It would be his second MVP award in the past three seasons and his third straight top-two finish. Ohtani won the award in 2021 and finished runner-up to Yankees slugger Aaron Judge last year.

For the long-term outlook, the news is significant for Ohtani on numerous fronts. He's an impending free agent who was routinely projected to clear $500 million in any deal prior to his torn UCL. While Ohtani will still be the top free agent available this offseason, it’s unclear what his contract will look like without him pitching next season.

That issue is even more complicated given that this was Ohtani’s second major surgery on his right elbow. Ohtani underwent Tommy John surgery at the end of the 2018 season to repair a tear in that same UCL. It wiped out his 2019 season, and because of more arm issues and a pandemic-shortened season, he made only two starts in ‘20.

When Ohtani fully returned to the mound in 2021, he proceeded to put up one of the most impressive three-year stretches in baseball history -- on both sides of the ball. From ‘21-23, Ohtani crushed 124 home runs and posted the fourth-best OPS+ (161) among hitters with at least 1,000 plate appearances. He also struck out 542 batters in 428 1/3 innings, with the second-best ERA+ (152) among starters with at least 400 innings.

With his contributions as a two-way player, Ohtani’s 26.3 WAR per FanGraphs was by far the most in all of baseball during his three-year peak. With surgery sidelining his pitching contributions until at least the 2025 season, it’ll be quite some time until we see the two-way phenom performing on both sides of the ball again.