Shohei Ohtani is looking at yet another comeback—but this time, it’s different. After surgery on his left elbow last September, Ohtani’s focus isn’t just on returning to the field; it’s on returning to the mound. The Los Angeles Dodgers expect their star to be ready to throw on Opening Day 2025, with regular pitching duties resuming later next season. That kind of timeline after major elbow surgery is rare, and it demands a bit of flipping through the history books.

The latest chapter of Ohtani’s legendary tale has to do with redefining what was thought possible for a pitcher after a significant injury and subsequent suregy. But, well, when has something as trivial as the word ‘unprecedented’ stopped baseball’s two-way phenom before? Redefining the very notion of what a baseball player can be? Shohei Ohtani is your guy. Of course, this isn’t his first dance with injury.

April, 2018—Ankle Sprain on the Basepaths: An Unusual Injury for Shohei Ohtani


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Pitchers strain their arms, fielders dive for balls, rough landings twist muscles unknown – it’s all been seen before. But in April 2018, Ohtani stumbled into a different type of trouble. The two-way sensation didn’t get beaned by a fastball or twist his knee on a bad slide. Instead, his injury came in a most mundane way: running to first base. In a freak accident that Ohtani’s sheer athleticism, even an ordinary sprint down the baseline turned into a display of speed, putting him at increased risk.

While minor, the sprain still kept Ohtani out of a few games and, even more frustratingly, delayed a highly anticipated pitching matchup against fellow Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka. It was just another hiccup in a rookie season filled with both electrifying moments and unexpected roadblocks. His 2018 ankle sprain is just a footnote in his career now, but unfortunately for Ohtani, his rookie season was about to take another unexpected turn.

June, 2018—From Ankle to Elbow: Shohei Ohtani’s Summer of Setbacks

Ohtani’s rookie season was supposed to be a showcase, a dazzling display of his unique abilities as a two-way player. Then came April 2018, with a freakish ankle sprain while running to first base. A few weeks later, he was back on the mound, but an ominous note of discomfort crept into his performance. That summer, as the Los Angeles Angels tried to manage Ohtani’s workload, his body kept throwing curveballs. In June, a recurring blister turned out to be the first sign of a far more serious issue: a damaged ligament in his pitching elbow.

As whispers of a UCL injury followed Ohtani, his once-electrifying fastball started to sag, and his signature splitter lost its bite. Manager Mike Scioscia remained stoic, noting that Ohtani was “…Throwing the ball… He wasn’t that much off. But as the game went on, he just didn’t look as crisp.” The Halos were in a bind.

Ohtani clearly wasn’t right, but pulling him from pitching also meant losing half his value to the team. They tried to buy time with rest days and careful pitch counts, a delicate dance that couldn’t last.“It was determined that any unique swing or variability could impose some small percentage increase in risk,” said then GM Billy Eppler, hinting at the looming threat to Ohtani’s future on the mound but the summer of 2018 would end up marking a turning point in Ohtani’s career.

His journey from star rookie to medical marvel was only just beginning, and baseball fans across the globe held their breath to see what the next chapter would bring—a chapter that would culminate in the now-famous October 2018 Tommy John surgery, a decision that threatened to sideline Ohtani’s potential for a grueling year but also offered a glimmer of hope for his future dominance on the mound.

October, 2018—The Inevitable Decision: Shohei Ohtani Opts for Tommy John Surgery

The wait was over. After months of whispers, workarounds, and hopeful injections, Shohei Ohtani’s body delivered its final verdict. The Angels’ two-way star, baseball’s modern-day Unicorn, was going under the knife. Tommy John surgery wasn’t just the elephant in the room; it was the surgical team standing at the ready. The question wasn’t “if,” but “when.” Ohtani would admit that his pitching dreams needed a major pause.

The inevitability of the decision didn’t make it any less of a heartbreaker. Ohtani was the talk of the league, a force of nature with a 100-mph fastball and a booming bat. Sure, there were always risks—the whispers about his damaged elbow had started back in Japan. But he defied expectations at every turn. This setback, though, felt different. “[It’s] rewarding to watch that—he can dominate a game on the mound and in the batter’s box,” a wistful Eppler remarked, already speaking of Ohtani’s pitching prowess in the past tense.

The road to recovery promised to be long, but for a fighter like Ohtani, there was always hope. However, as baseball fans would soon discover, his journey wouldn’t be without its detours. Just a few months later, in May 2019, a seemingly innocuous blister would spark fresh concerns, proving that Ohtani’s battle to reclaim his unique place on the diamond had only just begun.

May, 2019—Ohtani’s Blister Battle: Another setback for the two-way superstar 

Just as the 2019 season promised a return of Shohei Ohtani’s two-way brilliance, his body sounded another alarm. In May, what seemed like a routine hit by pitch turned into a much more ominous development. The blister on his throwing hand was back, and this time, it wasn’t just bad luck for the Angels. Ohtani was hit while swinging at the pitch, a clear sign the issue was affecting both his performance at the plate and his ability to stay healthy.

This latest setback felt heavier than the rookie-year injuries that had dogged Ohtani. There was an increasingly uneasy sense that his body’s limits might derail the grand experiment of his two-way career. Manager Brad Ausmus tried to remain optimistic: “I feel like Shohei, by all indications, he should be fine. Quicker timeframe…” he said, but the concern was clear on everyone’s faces. Fans across the league were left with a lingering question: was Ohtani’s unique workload catching up with him? The coming months would reveal that this was far from the last time his body would betray him.

September, 2019— New Injury, New Nightmare

September 2019 marked a devastating twist in Shohei Ohtani’s saga of setbacks. His Tommy John surgery had already sidelined him from pitching, but a new threat emerged, this time striking his very foundation as a two-way player. A congenital condition called bipartite patella, a kneecap that never fully fused, was now causing pain and instability. This injury was especially insidious, as Ohtani had been largely asymptomatic throughout his career. It was as if his body, pushed to MLB extremes, was acting out.

The timing was brutally ironic. As Ohtani ramped up his throwing for his Tommy John recovery, his knee flared up. Suddenly, the fear wasn’t just about his arm; it was about his ability to generate power—the key to both his swing and his pitching delivery. In one brutal blow, Ohtani’s two-way hopes were, yet again, thrown into painful uncertainty. The road back from multiple injuries seemed longer than ever, and with 2020 on the horizon, another setback would soon shake Ohtani’s career to its core.

August 2020—A New Blow: Strain in the Flexor Pronator

It was the cruelest of déjà vu moments for Shohei Ohtani. Less than two years after the dreaded words “Tommy John” echoed through his career, a new injury diagnosis struck like a bolt from the blue. This time, it wasn’t the UCL causing the anguish, but a strain in the flexor pronator mass, a group of muscles crucial to both throwing and swinging. The strain was only a Grade 1-2, but the implications for Ohtani’s two-way hopes were devastating.

Ohtani had already shown worrying signs on the mound. His fastball velocity tanked in that final inning, and his command fell apart. It was a far cry from just days prior, when he unleashed 97-mph heaters. The MRI results were the confirmation of everyone’s worst fears: Ohtani wouldn’t be throwing anytime soon. The Halos’ timetable was a grim four to six weeks, and with the COVID-shortened season ending in September, that left precious little time for a comeback.

His future as a pitcher wasn’t the only question mark hanging over Ohtani. The Angels were understandably cautious, and another significant setback could end his 2020 pitching ambitions for good. Ohtani was determined, vowing to remain a weapon at the plate, but the shadow of another year lost on the mound loomed large over the Los Angeles clubhouse. Yet, just when the baseball world was focused on his immediate struggles, an old specter would raise its head again, sparking a new wave of concern that would stretch into 2021.

May, 2021—Elbow Troubles Resurface

2021 – the year Shohei Ohtani won a unanimous AL MVP. It was such an unmatched display of baseball prowess that Jeff Fletcher wrote a book about it, called Sho-Time: The Inside Story of Shohei Ohtani and the Greatest Baseball Season Ever Played. And yet, the road to stardom was paved with obstacles.

It was a flashback no one wanted. After years of careful management, Shohei Ohtani’s elbow was back in the headlines. This time, an errant fastball was to blame, squarely striking his elbow guard with a sickening thud. It was a cruel reminder of the fragility of Ohtani’s two-way stardom—one bad pitch or one twisted swing could derail his entire season.

While Ohtani valiantly remained in the game, stealing bases to show his defiance, the damage was done. His scheduled pitching start was scrapped. Manager Joe Maddon remained stoic, insisting it was a minor hitch, but there was a telltale quiver in his voice: “[It’s] part of the game… That’s a growth moment…”  Behind the optimism, though, every Angels fan was holding their breath. This latest setback, though temporary, cast a long shadow over Ohtani’s ’21 season, a shadow that would linger into the following year.

May, 2022—The Shohei Ohtani Injury Saga Continues: Back and Groin Gremlins Rear Their Heads

Shohei Ohtani’s 2022 season seemed to be following a frustratingly familiar pattern. First, a groin tightness issue sidelined him against the Chicago White Sox, then an ill-timed back problem struck during his duel with Vladimir Guerrero Jr. These setbacks, however minor, were a stark reminder that Ohtani’s body was constantly under enormous stress. His two-way prowess was awe-inspiring, but it came at a cost. Every pitch, every swing, carried a unique set of risks.These nagging injuries, however, paled in comparison to the bizarre twist that awaited Ohtani later in the season. 

August, 2022—Shohei’s Stomach Aches: A Late-Season Swoon

Ohtani’s latest health issue wasn’t a pulled muscle or a twisted joint; it was something far less glamorous—a stomach bug. This bizarre malady underscored the unique vulnerabilities that come with Ohtani’s two-way superstardom. The Halos weren’t just worried about his arm or his legs; they were now concerned about something as commonplace as food poisoning. It wasn’t just his incredible power that was at risk; it was his ability to even get through a single game.

The timing couldn’t have been worse. It was late August, a crucial stretch in the Angels’ season. Instead of dominating from both the mound and the batter’s box, Ohtani was throwing up in the clubhouse. When he did take the mound, it was a shadow of his former self. Manager Phil Nevin’s praise felt hollow: “[He] calls him Superman all the time, but it just shows he’s human.”

The question now wasn’t about achieving mythic greatness; it was about Ohtani simply being able to finish a game. Just when one injury seemed under control, another would emerge.

July 2023: A Blister, A Benching, and Mounting Frustrations

The month of July in 2023 began ominously for Shohei Ohtani. First, the blister returned—the same nagging finger issue that had plagued his previous start. Even at bat, he couldn’t deliver the heroics he’d become known for. Fans watched, aghast, as this injury once again sidelined him mid-game. Then, Ohtani was forced to admit the bitter truth—he wouldn’t be making it to the All-Star mound as planned.

via Getty

The Ohtani drama didn’t end there. The Angels were in freefall. Their losing streak continued, rumors of Ohtani’s trade heated up, and the pressure mounted. It seemed that Ohtani’s once-bright trajectory in Anaheim had dimmed considerably. He’d battled injuries, but was there something deeper at play? Had the magic finally faded? But the month wasn’t over yet. Ohtani would face a new challenge—one far less glamorous than a fingertip issue: cramping.

July-August, 2023—From All-Star to Injury List: Ohtani’s Summer of Challenges

The baseball world held its collective breath as Ohtani started July on fire, fresh off an All-Star nod. A blister sidelined him briefly, then the freakish cramps struck—first in his legs, then in his pitching hand. His heroics were undeniable: homering even as he was visibly struggling, stealing bases on cramped legs. These were no ordinary injuries for such an extraordinary player; this was the stuff of a gritty legend. Yet Nevin was cautious, stressing, “We wouldn’t put him out there if we thought there was any risk.” Ohtani became the definition of “playing through pain.”

For Halos’ fans, the sight of Ohtani walking off mid-game had turned into an all-too-common sight. Ohtani was still hitting, still dazzling on the basepaths, but his once-dominant pitching was faltering. Would his body hold up against the demands of his two-way role? The team’s playoff hopes seemed to rest on the health of its star player, and Ohtani himself knew the stakes: “Everyone is giving everything they have… If I can, I would like to play each and every game.”

By early August, the toll was clear. Leaving a start early due to a cramping hand, then blasting his 40th homer, Ohtani was pushing the limits of what human endurance could bear. But the Angels’ collapse in the ninth, highlighted by a rookie’s grand slam, exposed their frailty without a healthy Ohtani. The question was no longer whether he was Superman; it was when his body would finally say “enough.” And it did. 

August, 2023—Arm Anguish: Ohtani Battles Fatigue and a Familiar Fear

The shadow of his 2018 injury returned to haunt Ohtani in August. Arm fatigue hampered his pitching, forcing him to skip a start and then cut his next outing short in just the fourth inning. By the end of the month, the news was grim: a torn UCL. 

Although he’d continue to hit, the prospect of Tommy John surgery hung heavy in the air. After surviving the strain of being a two-way player for years, his body finally seemed to be forcing a longer break from the mound. But as September arrived, Ohtani’s injury woes wouldn’t be confined to his elbow.

September, 2023—Sideline Surprise: Ohtani and the Oblique Strain


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Shohei Ohtani’s stellar season came to a jarring halt in August 2023 after he tore his UCL while pitching. Although he’d continue hitting. Then, in early September, a mysterious oblique strain flared up during batting practice, seemingly out of nowhere. Ohtani was ruled out indefinitely, with tests offering little in the way of answers.


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The oblique injury proved to be the final blow. With the regular season winding down, it became clear Ohtani would not return in time, forcing him onto the injured list after missing out on games consecutively. This meant his season, and quite possibly his time with the Angels, was over. With an eye on free agency, speculation immediately turned to the surgery he’d face, the impact on his future earnings, and whether he’d return in 2024 as more than just a DH.

The news that Ohtani would not pitch again until 2025 was a devastating blow. The Halos, having struggled this season despite his incredible talent, had banked on one more run with their superstar. His injuries marked a cruel turning point—one that ultimately led him to don the blue and white of the Los Angeles Dodgers in a shocking off-season turn. While the surgery means a delay in his return to the mound, fans can’t help but buzz about what the future holds for an Ohtani unleashed upon the National League.