Ohtani puts on power display in 1st on-field BP session with Dodgers

February 12th, 2024

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Last week, said he was “very confident” that he’ll be ready to suit up when the Dodgers open their season against the Padres in Seoul, South Korea on March 20.

On Monday, the newest Dodgers superstar took a significant step towards being able to accomplish that goal. For the first time since undergoing a second major right elbow surgery, which contributed to his 2023 season being cut short, Ohtani hit batting practice on the field at Camelback Ranch.

“I felt really good overall,” Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. “Every swing got really strong with some good results.”

Ohtani, who has drawn rave reviews from his teammates and executives about how meticulous he is with every swing, took pitches from J.T. Watkins as they simulated real at-bats. In the first round, Ohtani easily cleared the right-field fence on just his second swing of the session. Overall, the two-time American League Most Valuable player went through two rounds of batting practice. He took 21 swings overall, 10 of them for homers.

“I was planning on, like I said earlier, to swing on the lighter side,” Ohtani said. “But I felt like the swings were feeling really good, which is a really good sign. I think it’s trending towards me being ready for Opening Day.”

In addition to the elbow ailment, Ohtani also suffered a left oblique injury that shut him down for the last month of the season. Hitting on the field on Monday signaled to Ohtani that the specific injury is behind him, another encouraging sign in his progression.

“I was being a little careful,” Ohtani said. “But overall I felt really good. All the swings I took inside the cage felt really strong. I think we’re past the oblique injury.”

The next step of Ohtani’s rehab remains unclear, but he has said on numerous occasions that he remains right on schedule for Opening Day. The Dodgers will be going through live batting practice starting on Tuesday, but it’s unlikely Ohtani participates in the next couple of days.

“It’s not going to be every day, but it’ll be more often than during the season,” Ohtani said, when asked if he’ll hit on the field every day. “I’ll be mostly doing my hitting work in the cage. When there are things I need to check on, that’s when I’ll hit outside.”

Ohtani’s first batting practice session outside was as impressive as it sounds. Most players don’t hit a ton of home runs during those sessions, particularly this early in the spring. One of the most impressive swings came as he launched a homer over the wall in right-center field.

After the ball landed in the bushes, Dodgers hitting coach Robert Van Scoyoc asked Ohtani if he had gotten jammed on the pitch. Ohtani turned back with a smile and quickly answered, “A little bit.”

"On the field, he looks great. He looks awesome," Van Scoyoc said. "He’s moving good. He’s moving fast. The ball is really coming off. He’s explosive. So from everything I’ve seen, he looks outstanding."