Yamamoto in 'good spot' as Dodgers wrap Cactus League slate

March 14th, 2024

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- pitched his last exhibition game in the Arizona desert. Next stop: the Gocheok Sky Dome in South Korea for his Major League debut.

The 25-year-old rookie struck out seven in 4 2/3 innings Wednesday in Peoria. The Dodgers lost 8-1 to the Mariners, but more focus was on Yamamoto’s final tuneup in the Valley of Sun, as the righty is scheduled for Game 2 of the Seoul Series.

L.A. will take on the Padres to officially open the 2024 regular season March 20 and 21.

Yamamoto opened Wednesday dialed in and struck out the side in the top of the first, including getting J.P. Crawford looking on a 96 mph fastball and Julio Rodríguez swinging on an 85 mph offspeed offering.

The Mariners did adjust to score four runs on eight hits off Yamamoto before he exited with two outs in the top of the fifth. He threw 72 pitches, 46 for strikes, plus one pitch-clock violation, a wild pitch and one walk.

“I’m not a complete pitcher yet,” Yamamoto said through an interpreter. “I’m very happy to start my career in the big leagues.”

Manager Dave Roberts likes what he saw this spring from his 12-year, $325 million starter.

“He had a chance to learn some things about Major League hitters,” said Roberts. “Even today, the first two innings I thought were flawless. Then the third, fourth and fifth inning, I thought he just couldn’t land his breaking ball consistently. To be ready for his first start of the season, I think we’re in a good spot.”

The Dodgers identified Yamamoto as one of their top offseason targets in free agency. After scouting him for years, the franchise this winter made Yamamoto the highest-paid pitcher in Major League history despite him not throwing a pitch in the Majors.

In Nippon Professional Baseball, Yamamoto is fresh off winning the pitching Triple Crown as well as three consecutive Eiji Sawamura Awards, the equivalent of the Cy Young in MLB.

He’s adjusted well to Major League pitching, he says.

“I have great support from pitching coaches Mark [Prior] and Connor [McGuiness]. They have helped me out a lot as far as adjustments and they have given me enough time,” Yamamoto said. “There are still adjustments I need to work on, but I think I’m getting ready.”

Other notes

  • The team on Wednesday got another look at their new infield since Mookie Betts moved to shortstop and Gavin Lux switched back to second. “Time will tell,” Roberts said. “I know Mookie’s excited about it. I think it’s a good thing for Gavin to get on the other side of the diamond. I thought they both had good days today. The more baseball they play, I expect them to get better, both of them.”
  • The Dodgers’ other big offseason acquisition, Shohei Ohtani, took his last spring swings in Arizona. Batting second at DH behind Betts and ahead of Freddie Freeman, Ohtani finished 0-for-3 and struck out twice. He also flew out deep to right field.
  • The Dodgers on Wednesday will whittle their roster to 31 players for the South Korea trip. After their trip to the Far East, the team will return to exhibition play, but at Dodger Stadium. The Angels come in for three final tuneup games in the Freeway Series from March 24-25, then they will move down to Anaheim for the final preseason game on March 26. The regular season resumes on March 28, when the Cardinals visit Chavez Ravine. “This spring really flew by, and to think that we’re gonna spend our last night here in Arizona it’s sort of crazy,” Roberts said. “Looking forward to getting out there in Korea.”