Shohei Ohtani reaction could hint that decision on future has been made

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Shohei Ohtani has been a sensation for the Los Angeles Angels over the last six seasons
Shohei Ohtani has been a sensation for the Los Angeles Angels over the last six seasons

Shohei Ohtani was visibly emotional in the dugout as the Los Angeles Angels lost to American League West rivals the Seattle Mariners and fell further behind in their push for a playoff place.

The 29-year-old was not traded before the MLB trade deadline at the start of this month. Instead, the team made aggressive moves to improve in what is likely the last season with their two-way superstar on the roster.

The three-time All-Star is a free agent this offseason and is in line to become the highest-paid player in league history. However, he has still not played in the postseason since arriving in the United States from Japan ahead of the 2018 season.

Back-to-back defeats to the Mariners have hardly helped the chances of that changing at the end of this regular season campaign, either. The Angels have now lost four straight games and six of their last eight after appearing to have turned a corner late last month.

However, their recent downturn leaves them five games back of a wild card spot in the playoffs. They would have to overhaul three divisional rivals in the race, and one of those is Seattle, who have just dealt their postseason ambitions a double blow.

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The Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees are also better positioned behind the Toronto Blue Jays to clinch an AL wild card. Hopes in Anaheim are hardly helped by Ohtani being far from fully fit.

His pitching has been affected by finger cramps over recent weeks, and the player was pulled out of the first game of the series versus the Mariners on Thursday. Ohtani was unable to extend his right middle finger.

Shohei Ohtani reaction could hint that decision on future has been madeOhtani has plenty to ponder this offseason (Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

"I felt like maybe I could've gone another inning or two," he admitted to reporters through an interpreter afterwards, "but I'm trying to feel out how my hand feels."

"It was a 0-0 game, we couldn't give up any runs, and I thought it was better for the team for me to stop pitching." That pain was evident on his face after exiting the game and seeing the team fall to defeat from the dugout.

Whether there was also an element of resigning himself to leaving the Angels for good in the coming months remains to be seen. His several suitors will hope that is the case, but Ohtani is not yet writing off the season.

"Every game is going to matter from here on out," he said. Asked whether he wants additional time off to rest his troublesome finger, Ohtani added: "Personally, I feel like I don't want to take any days off. I'm not the only one that's fatigued."

Such resilience will no doubt please almost every other team in the league when a player of his calibre could easily sit out and coast into the offseason. Ohtani's days as an Angel may be numbered, but each still matters to him.

Matthew Abbott

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