Ohtani handles Tommy John news by hitting 2 home runs

Shohei Ohtani cracks a home run vs the RangersDoctors have recommended that Shohei Ohtani undergo Tommy John surgery to repair a damaged ligament in his pitching arm, which would keep the Los Angeles Angels two-way star from pitching for the entire 2019 season. The news hasn’t stopped Ohtani from maintaining his productive rookie season as a hitter, with two more home runs on Wednesday.

Ohtani made a brief return to the mound against the Houston Astros on Sunday but was pulled in the third inning due to a noticeable drop in pitch speed. He has been hitting without issue since returning to the lineup in July as a designated hitter, and it is possible he could continue to hit - as a DH or an outfielder - in 2019 while recovering from the procedure, although the Angels aren’t entertaining any of those possibilities just yet.

Even if Ohtani continues to hit, that is only half of the talent that made him the talk of the offseason. Furthermore, his elbow issues only bolster concerns that two-way players can’t withstand the rigors of today’s MLB, and that durability will continue to be questioned until he can remain active as both a hitter and a pitcher for an entire season.

Los Angeles is far enough outside the American League wild card race to shut Ohtani down completely and not risk further injury to his elbow. But the Angels will eventually need Ohtani to be the dominant force on the mound that he hinted he could be with his starts in April and May if they hope to build a championship contender around him and Mike Trout.

The abilities Ohtani has displayed as both a pitcher and a hitter offer a tantalizing glimpse of what he could offer if he is healthy for a full season. His limited showing as a rookie pitcher is enough to make him a rookie of the year candidate when combined with his hitting stats. Baseball is more fun when someone like Ohtani is changing the game through sheer force of will, and the sooner he returns to that form, the better for the sport.

Ohtani’s start on Sunday may not have gone as planned, but it did allow him to reach a rare milestone, becoming only the second player to start 10 games as a pitcher and hit 10 home runs in the same season. The first? Babe Ruth.