Logan O’Hoppe has not been a major leaguer for long but has impressed early this season. Then his season was put on pause, the Angels‘ rookie catcher tearing the labrum in his left shoulder last week. He was told this weekend that he will need surgery to repair it.
“It’s like, you wait your whole life and you get here,” O’Hoppe said Sunday, “and you get a taste at the end of last year and then you work even harder and then you get a taste of hopefully what the whole year has in store, and I think that’s the toughest part to deal with.
“Gonna do everything I can to get back here and help this team win.”
It will be a long road back for the 23-year-old. The timeline for O’Hoppe’s recovery and return is anywhere from four to six months, manager Phil Nevin said.
The Angels, who defeated the Kansas City Royals 4-3 on Sunday behind consecutive home runs from Taylor Ward, Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani, are down their two best catchers. Veteran Max Stassi remains on the injured list because of a left hip strain. He also is dealing with an ongoing family emergency.
After O’Hoppe and Stassi, the Angels’ catching depth includes veteran Chad Wallach and Matt Thaiss. Wallach figures to get more of the catching responsibilities, catching Ohtani the first game of the current homestand, Sunday’s game against Kansas City and probably Monday’s game against the Oakland Athletics.
“I like where we’re at behind the plate,” Nevin said. “I’m confident in those guys. These pitchers have all thrown to ‘em. So we’re in a good place there.”
Wallach and Thaiss had particularly impressive games at the plate Friday and Saturday, contributing momentum-changing home runs.
“Right now, we have Matt and Chad,” general manager Perry Minasian said, adding that if the Angels had to call up someone, “we’ll consider everybody. If they’re in the organization, we’ll take a look.”
After those players, the Angels’ top catching prospect is Edgar Quero. He has had a prolific rise through the ranks, though at just 20 years old and still developing, he seems unlikely to get a call-up. He was promoted to double A to start this season.
Angels players feel for O’Hoppe, who had looked like an early candidate for rookie of the year. In 16 games, he had scored five runs, logged 15 hits, including four homers and two doubles, walked four times and contributed 13 RBIs.
“He was playing well, and he’s the one that’s most disappointed,” Ohtani said through an interpreter Friday, before the Angels were aware of the severity of O’Hoppe’s injury. “I want to support him all the way until he comes back. … He would hate to see the team start losing once he [starts his IL stint], so hopefully we can put on as many wins as possible before he comes back.”
Trout, who has experienced season-altering injuries, talked to O’Hoppe to help keep him positive.
“It’s just a little bump in the road,” Trout said. “He did everything right. Freak things happen sometimes. I think he’s making the right decision [to get the surgery].
“I know it was a tough one for him because you want to come back quick, but he made the right decision to get it taken care of instead of playing through it.”
O’Hoppe initially felt a pop in his left shoulder swinging at a pitch during the Angels’ game last Monday in Boston, but he remained in that game and played the next three. He felt the pop again in the back of his shoulder during his last at-bat Thursday against the Yankees.
O’Hoppe crumpled to the ground in the batter’s box on that swing, running to first base while keeping his arm and shoulder rigid. He folded over, slammed his helmet into the ground and was in tears. After that game, he said the pop in Boston freaked him out, but the pop in New York was more painful.
“It felt fine after it popped back in, in Boston,” O’Hoppe said Sunday. “I mean, you hit three or four balls over 100 miles an hour, you think you’re fine.”
Labrum tears are not uncommon sports injuries, explained Dr. Alan Beyer, executive medical director at the Hoag Orthopedic Institute and an orthopedic surgeon. Beyer is not O’Hoppe’s physician and spoke to The Times as an expert on the type of injury.
“The labrum is a commonly injured cartilage structure that is used to deepen the shoulder socket and convey stability to the shoulder joint,” Beyer said.
There are typically two ways to address a labrum tear depending on a person’s age. Older patients, 40 or older, usually get the torn part of the labrum removed. For someone younger, it’s recommended to repair the tear by sewing it back together.
“It’s a far better, longer lasting, more definitive fix to actually surgically fix the labrum,” Beyer said.
The way O’Hoppe tore his labrum, swinging on a pitch, is a less common way that injury occurs in baseball players — labrum tears are more common when players slide headfirst with their arms extended, or in pitchers because of the repetitive throwing motion.
When a labrum tear occurs in a batter, it’s usually because “the shoulder subluxes a little bit posteriorly in the socket and the labrum on the backside of the shoulder tears,” though a tear on the front side could also occur, Beyer said.
O’Hoppe is not the only player to sustain a torn labrum swinging on a pitch. The San Diego Padres’ Fernando Tatis Jr. had a similar injury swinging on a breaking ball in a game in April 2021. Tatis and the Padres tried to forgo surgery to repair his injury, but he had multiple trips to the IL through the rest of that season. Tatis eventually had surgery to repair his labrum last September.
This is the first time O’Hoppe has had a shoulder injury or any significant, possibly season-ending injury.
“It’s a tough pill to swallow,” O’Hoppe said. “You do everything in your power so that it doesn’t happen. One thing I have been telling myself the past couple days is sitting around feeling sorry for myself isn’t gonna help any situation.
“So, look at it like a challenge and tackle it head on.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.