Ohtani remains 'ahead of schedule' but doesn't take live BP yet

February 16th, 2024

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- As Dodgers players and coaches ran onto the field for Friday’s workout, all the attention stayed on Field 2 in the backfields of Camelback Ranch.

On the practice schedule, it was clear was set to face live pitching for the first time since undergoing right elbow surgery last September. But as Max Muncy, Teoscar Hernández, Chris Taylor and Miguel Rojas took turns against left-hander Alex Vesia, it became obvious that Ohtani would not be joining the group.

About 15 minutes after the live batting practice session, however, Ohtani emerged from the new hitting facility in the spring complex. He was only supposed to take batting practice on Friday, not face live pitching. That next step in his recovery won’t come until next week.

But despite the initial fear of something going wrong, the Dodgers have been pleasantly surprised with how well Ohtani has been recovering. His rehab has been “ahead of schedule,” according to manager Dave Roberts, more encouraging signs that he’ll be ready by Opening Day in Seoul, South Korea, on March 20.

“He’s a lot further along than any of us not named Shohei would have expected,” Roberts said. “He’s worked really hard and is very diligent in his work. What that means as far as when he’s gonna play in a Cactus League game, I don’t know that answer. But it seems like every single day, he keeps getting better and feels really good.”

Ohtani has been putting on a show in every batting practice he has taken part this spring. He hit 10 homers in 21 swings the first time out on the field. Ohtani followed with 10 more homers on 29 swings the second time he went through the drill. The two-time American League Most Valuable Player hit 13 homers on 26 swings on Friday, including five consecutive during the second round.

While Ohtani continues to make significant progress, Roberts isn’t sure how many at-bats he’ll need during Cactus League play. But if the superstar is able to take live BP by next week, there shouldn’t be many problems with him getting enough game at-bats before the team flies out to South Korea.

“I’m gonna start talking to him on what he likes, as far as his expectation to get ready for a Major League season,” Roberts said. “Obviously, game at-bats are important. But if we can get at-bats on a backfield, we can do that, too. Certainly everyone wants to see him on a baseball field and playing. I get that. But the main thing is to get him ready for Opening Day. And I think we’ve got plenty of time to do that.”