Why Ohtani plans to 'act like I’m a rookie' in first camp with LA

Yamamoto, Buehler among Dodgers to throw initial bullpen sessions of '24

February 9th, 2024

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Over the past six seasons with the Angels, has been able to adapt to the Majors and all of his surroundings. In a short period of time, the Dodgers' new superstar has become one of the most influential and fascinating players in Major League history.

But after Ohtani arrived at Dodgers camp earlier this week, the two-time American League Most Valuable Player will, once again, have to adapt to his new surroundings. It’s an opportunity that he says he’s looking forward to.

“I’m on a brand new team, so I’m going to act like I’m a rookie,” Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara, "and try to get along with all the guys and get along with my teammates.”

Over the past month, Ohtani has been working out at Dodger Stadium in order to get familiar with the new facilities. He has already spent time with Walker Buehler and Gavin Lux, who have been rehabbing throughout the winter.

As he gets to Camelback Ranch, Ohtani said his priority will be meeting and getting to know all the coaches and players. That process began Thursday as pitchers and catchers reported for physicals. It’ll continue throughout the spring and into the season.

Ohtani will also have to get his body ready to play on Opening Day on March 20 in Seoul, South Korea. He said at DodgerFest that he is “very confident” he’ll be ready to be the team’s designated hitter against the Padres. Some time in the near future, Ohtani said, he will make the next jump in his hitting progression by facing live pitching.

“I think it’s important to get an understanding on both ends,” Ohtani said. “They need to know what I’m trying to do, and I need to know what the team’s trying to do. So right now we’re trying to get on the same page and trying to go forward.”

Ohtani said his main focus is trying to build up as a hitter. The rehab progression as a pitcher will be something he and the team talk through in the coming days or weeks. Ohtani does have experience in handling a pitching rehab while also still serving as the designated hitter.

He underwent Tommy John surgery after the 2018 season and missed the first month of the ‘19 season as he continued to rehab. This time, Ohtani said the surgery was different, which is what makes him confident he won’t need to miss games. When he returned in ‘19, Ohtani finished with a .848 OPS in 106 games.

“This is not my first time doing this, rehabbing while getting ready for the season,” Ohtani said. “I did this back in ‘19, so I kind of know how to do it and I feel like it’ll be easier the second time around.”

Around the bases at spring camp

• Buehler and Yoshinobu Yamamoto threw their first official bullpen sessions of camp on Friday. Buehler threw somewhere around 35 pitches, while Yamamoto went somewhere between 20-25 pitches. Austin Barnes caught Yamamoto’s workout, while Lux stood inside the batter’s box.

• Blake Treinen and Daniel Hudson were also among the pitchers who threw a bullpen session on Friday. Treinen is coming back from right shoulder surgery that cost him the entire 2023 season, and he looks to be back healthy. The right-hander was one of the most dominant relievers before the injuries, and the Dodgers expect to get him back to that same level. Hudson, on the other hand, has missed most of the past two seasons with injuries to both knees. He’s on a Minor League deal with an invite to Spring Training.

• Lux is one of a handful of position players who arrived at Camelback Ranch a week early for workouts. The 26-year-old met with Dr. Neal ElAttrache on Thursday and was fully cleared for all baseball activities. Lux will also not have to wear the knee brace he has been sporting all offseason.