The Los Angeles Dodgers are gearing up for an exciting season, and Shohei Ohtani is at the center of their plans. Despite rehabbing from elbow surgery as a pitcher, Ohtani is “very confident” that he’ll be ready to serve as the Dodgers’ designated hitter when they open their season in South Korea on March 20.
Manager Dave Roberts has already revealed the first three spots of his star-studded lineup. Mookie Betts will lead off, followed by Freddie Freeman batting second, and Ohtani hitting third. This announcement drew an enthusiastic response from fans at the team’s Fan Fest event, where many were sporting new Ohtani jerseys and T-shirts.
Roberts expressed his excitement, saying, “The Dodgers, Los Angeles, is going to be the epicenter of sports and baseball.” The Dodgers have made significant offseason acquisitions, spending approximately $1.2 billion on players like Ohtani, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Tyler Glasnow, Teoscar Hernandez, and James Paxton after a 100-win season.
Ohtani, who underwent a procedure resembling his second Tommy John surgery, has been progressing well with his hitting. He’s been taking flips and hitting off a tee and will soon start hitting against higher velocities. While his throwing program remains uncertain, Ohtani is determined to be ready for the two-game series against the San Diego Padres in South Korea.
“Rehab’s been going really well,” Ohtani stated. “Just as planned so far. As long as I’m ready by March 20, then I think I’ll be playing throughout the whole year.”
Other Dodgers players are also working towards being ready for the season. Gavin Lux, who missed the entire 2023 season due to injury, expects to be ready. High-leverage reliever Blake Treinen is preparing for a “normal” spring training after dealing with shoulder issues, and Walker Buehler will have an innings limit but aims to start the season on time.
The Dodgers’ rotation has seen significant changes this offseason, with newcomers like Yamamoto, Glasnow, and Paxton joining the team. The possibility of Clayton Kershaw’s return is still on the table, with the veteran pitcher recovering from shoulder surgery.
“We continue to stay in touch with Clayton,” said Dodgers general manager Brandon Gomes, “and we’ll progress.”