Los Angeles Dodgers two-way star Shohei Ohtani said on Saturday that he’s “very confident” he’ll be in the lineup as the team’s designated hitter when they open Major League Baseball’s regular season in Seoul, South Korea on March 20 against the San Diego Padres, according to ESPN’s Alden González. Ohtani, who added that he’s right on schedule with his recovery, made his comments during the team’s annual “DodgerFest” celebration.
Ohtani, 29, will not be available to pitch this season after undergoing an elbow operation that ended the pitching portion of his campaign prematurely last August. He was then shut down as a hitter after suffering an oblique injury. Those physical woes did not prevent Ohtani from signing a 10-year pact with the Dodgers worth $700 million. (The contract includes a historic amount of deferrals that make it significantly less valuable in present-day terms.) Nor did they prevent Ohtani from winning his second American League MVP award.
Ohtani is no stranger to continuing to hit while nursing an arm injury. After all, he was limited to 12 starts over the course of the 2018-20 seasons. Still, that didn’t stop him from appearing in 254 games as a hitter, or from compiling a 125 OPS+ with 47 home runs and 147 RBI.
The Dodgers and Padres will play two games in Seoul, marking the first time MLB has ever hosted games in South Korea. It won’t be Ohtani’s first time there, however. He appeared in World Baseball Classic games there last spring as a member of the eventual champions Team Japan.
Ohtani is one of several notable additions the Dodgers made to their roster following a disappointing exit from last fall’s postseason. The Dodgers have also acquired Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Tyler Glasnow, Teoscar Hernandez and James Paxton either through free agency or trades.
Ohtani will enter the 2024 season, his seventh in MLB, as a career .274/.366/.556 hitter (148 OPS+). As a pitcher, he’s amassed a 142 ERA+ and a 3.51 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Overall, his contributions have been worth an estimated 34.7 Wins Above Replacement, per Baseball Reference’s calculations.