Even without taking field, Ohtani's presence is felt

February 17th, 2024

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- While the live BP pitching debut of dominated the Spring Training scene Saturday, eyes also were on that “other” offseason Dodgers acquisition.

is on an “every other day” schedule at the moment, manager Dave Roberts noted on Saturday, which was an off day for the slugging sensation. Ohtani did arrive at the Dodgers clubhouse at Camelback Ranch-Glendale at 9 a.m., but he didn’t take the field.

Roberts expects him to be on the field Sunday, but in what capacity isn’t clear.

“I don’t know if it’s just batting practice or it’s live BP,” Roberts said.

Ohtani’s 2023 MVP season officially ended on Sept. 15 after an MRI revealed an irritation of his right oblique muscle. He underwent successful elbow surgery shortly thereafter to fix a torn UCL, having made his final pitching appearance of the season on Aug. 23.

The Dodgers’ $700 million free-agent signee will assume designated hitter duties this year and is expected to resume pitching again in 2025.

Roberts couldn’t say Saturday exactly how his new slugger is coming along physically.

“I’m just kind of managing the hitting part of it. The rehab part is more on the training staff,” Roberts said. “And so, right now where he’s at, I just don’t know exactly what his progression is.”

Roberts does however feel taking a year off pitching will help Ohtani’s offensive focus. Ohtani belted 44 home runs last season with the Angels and has hit 124 over the past three years.

Last year also saw the two-time MVP bat .304, the first time he surpassed .300 in his six Major League seasons.

“I do think that for him to put a lot more time into just the hitting part of it, I would assume that it bodes better for him offensively while still trying to rehab his elbow,” Roberts said. “He has embraced pitching and hitting. I’m sure he’s going to miss not being able to go out there every fifth or sixth day to pitch, but I just really feel good the way he is right now. You can just see how comfortable Shohei is here.”