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Oh hey, Shohei: What Angels acquisition of Japanese star two-way ballplayer means for their AL West chances




Shohei Ohtani speaks onstage during his introduction to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on December 9, 2017 in Anaheim, California.
Shohei Ohtani speaks onstage during his introduction to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Angel Stadium of Anaheim on December 9, 2017 in Anaheim, California.
Joe Scarnici/Getty Images

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The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim were a club in need of excitement.

Despite being the home of one of baseball’s brightest young stars, outfielder and perennial MVP threat Mike Trout, the Halos finished just below the .500 mark in 2017, putting up a middling 80-82 record in a division that was dominated all year long by the Houston Astros, who would go on to win the World Series.

Enter 23-year-old Japanese megastar Shohei Ohtani, arguably the most sought-after Japanese baseball player to enter the Major Leagues since Daisuke Matsuzaka came to the league 10 years ago. Ohtani signed with the Angels earlier in December, ending months of speculation about where he might ultimately land. But unlike any of his predecessors, or really any other player in baseball, Ohtani is a double threat as both a hitter and pitcher. Last season, playing for the Nippon-Ham Fighters, one of his fastballs was clocked at 102.5 mph, a league record. He’s also hit several home runs over 500 feet (check out this blast that hit the roof of the Tokyo Dome).

Less than a week after he was signed, however, a report surfaced that Ohtani had a minor tear of his ulnar collateral ligament (UCL) in the elbow of his right arm — his pitching arm. While many pitchers suffer minor tears and continue to pitch through the injury, prolonged use of the damaged ligament could lead to more trouble down the road in the form of Tommy John surgery.

What can we expect from Ohtani when he suits up for the Angels this season? Should fans be worried in the long term about the injury to his throwing arm? How unique is Ohtani in the sense that he can both hit and pitch at an elite level?

Guest:

Jeff Fletcher, Angels beat writer for Southern California News Group; he tweets @JeffFletcherOCR