Ohtani 'very confident' he'll be ready to DH on Opening Day

February 4th, 2024

LOS ANGELES -- Coming into the 2024 season, it’s already known won’t be on the mound this year as he recovers from a second right elbow surgery. But Ohtani, unlike any other player in the Majors, has the ability to still make a significant impact at the plate.

As he continues to progress from the injury that cut his 2023 season short, Ohtani revealed on Saturday at DodgerFest that he is “very confident” he’ll be the team’s designated hitter when they open the season on March 20 against the Padres in Seoul, South Korea.

“We’re right on schedule,” Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. “We’re not ahead, we’re not behind. We’re right on schedule. As long as there are no setbacks going forward, I’ll be ready.”

Ohtani has been working out at Dodger Stadium since signing with the club in December. The two-time American League Most Valuable Player said he has been hitting flips and off a tee. When he gets to Camelback Ranch next week, the team and the superstar will get together to determine the next steps in his recovery.

The first step will be hitting off a machine in batting practice and then progressing to take live batting practice throughout the spring. Ohtani will also have to balance rehabbing his elbow so he can pitch in 2025.

“I’m going to start my throwing program when I get to Arizona and go from there,” Ohtani said. “We haven’t really scheduled anything like live BPs or anything like that. So we’re going to [play] it by ear through camp. The main focus will be on hitting, obviously, throughout the year, and we're going to try to ease into the pitching program throughout the year.”

With the Dodgers now hoping -- and perhaps expecting -- Ohtani to be in their lineup from the start of the season, there was plenty of buzz around Saturday’s DodgerFest as to what the team’s batting order could look like.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said he hasn’t thought too much about it, but he is looking forward to deciding how he’ll line up his three MVPs in , and Ohtani. When Roberts polled fans, however, the people in attendance voted on having Betts, Ohtani and Freeman, in that order.

“I think for me, it’s just having a conversation with those guys, and I don’t think we’re going to nail it from the outset and say [who] the first three are on Opening Day is going to be seamless the entirety of the season,” Roberts said. “It might happen, but I want Mookie, Freddie and Shohei to be part of the conversation.”

Betts has hit atop the lineup for most of his career and every game since joining the Dodgers in 2020. The ‘23 NL MVP runner-up said he doesn’t care where he hits this season. Freeman, who has hit second and third in his career, shared the sentiment.

“Everyone is asking, but in ‘22, I was hitting second and I switched with Trea [Turner] a little bit,” Freeman said. “We’ll see how it goes. Hopefully we find something in Spring Training and it works for a very, very, very long time. … I think it’s a good problem to have.”