Ohtani, Yamamoto get set for first Spring Training with Dodgers

February 10th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Juan Toribio's Dodgers Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Pitchers and catchers -- and a few position players -- reported to Camelback Ranch on Thursday for the first official day of Dodgers camp.

Things looked a lot different this season, both on and off the field. In the clubhouse, newcomers , Yoshinobu Yamamoto and were all in the facilities getting some early work done. Off the field, there were about 50 more media members than usual, most of them focusing on Yamamoto and Ohtani.

But once the entire Dodgers team reports to camp next week, it’ll be all business. The Dodgers’ goal in 2024 is to win the World Series. After spending more than $1 billion in contracts this offseason, anything less than that would be considered a failure.

Before all of that gets going, however, let’s take a look at some storylines to follow with the Dodgers as Spring Training gets underway.

How will Yamamoto adapt to a Major League season?

Yamamoto’s list of accolades was almost unprecedented at his age. The 25-year-old won the pitching Triple Crown in Nippon Professional Baseball, leading the league in wins, ERA and strikeouts, and the Eiji Sawamura Award -- Japan’s equivalent of the Cy Young -- in each of the past three seasons.

During that span, Yamamoto went 49-16 with a 1.44 ERA and 580 strikeouts. But now, Yamamoto will have to adapt to the best league in the world and the best hitters on the planet. That’s why there’s risk in handing him a $325 million deal before throwing a pitch in the Majors. The Dodgers, however, believed he was certainly worth that risk because of the potential and talent he possesses at his age.

Not only will Yamamoto have to learn new hitters, but there’s also cultural differences he will have to adapt to. Yamamoto has never lived in the United States for an extended period of time, and he has also never pitched in a five-man rotation. The Dodgers, of course, tend to give their starters an extra day of rest whenever they can, which should help the right-hander.

Spring Training will be a critical time for Yamamoto to get comfortable with his new teammates in a different country. It’ll also be interesting to see how opposing hitters react to what most scouts believe could be a dominant repertoire in the Majors.

Will Ohtani be ready in time?

Ohtani won’t be ready to pitch in ‘24 as he recovers from a second major right elbow surgery that forced him to miss the end of his second American League MVP Award-winning season in ‘23.

But as he rehabs to get back on the mound, Ohtani still has the unique ability to make an impact inside the batter’s box this season. How early that’ll be will be the $700 million question throughout camp. Ohtani said at last weekend’s DodgerFest that he is “very confident” he’ll be the team’s designated hitter by the time they suit up against the Padres on March 20 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.”