Spring training is underway. On Friday, the Los Angeles Dodgers fittingly became the first team to open camp after their star-studded — and billion dollar — offseason. The Dodgers and San Diego Padres will begin the regular season in South Korea on March 20-21, so they have early reporting dates. The other 28 clubs will open camp next week.
Friday is Shohei Ohtani’s first official day of work with the Dodgers, and although he is the game’s biggest star, he said he’s going to act like a rookie now that he’s on a new team. “I’m on a brand new team, so I’m going to act like I’m a rookie and try to get along with all the guys, and get along with my teammates,” Ohtani said (via MLB.com).
Ohtani also provided an update on his elbow surgery rehab. He said he is already swinging a bat with 100% effort, and the next step is facing the high-velocity pitching machine and live pitchers, per the Los Angeles Times. Ohtani added that doing this — hitting while rehabbing his elbow as a pitcher — previously in 2019 will help him this season.
The exact nature of Ohtani’s elbow surgery is still unknown, though he will not pitch this coming season. He will be a DH only and will slot in as the team’s No. 3 hitter, manager Dave Roberts announced at the team’s Fan Fest event earlier this month (per ESPN). Figure the everyday lineup will look something like this:
- 2B Mookie Betts
- 1B Freddie Freeman
- DH Shohei Ohtani
- C Will Smith
- 3B Max Muncy
- LF Teoscar Hernández
- CF James Outman/Chris Taylor
- RF Jason Heyward/Manuel Margot
- SS Gavin Lux/Miguel Rojas
Now 29, Ohtani hit .304/.412/.654 with 44 home runs last season before the elbow surgery and an oblique injury ended his year in early September. He led the American League in homers, total bases, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage. Ohtani also threw 132 innings with a 3.14 ERA and 167 strikeouts. He was named AL MVP unanimously for the second time in three years.
Ohtani signed a record 10-year, $700 million contract earlier this offseason. Heavy deferrals — Ohtani will make only $2 million a year the next 10 years — reduce the present day value to $460 million or so. Los Angeles also signed Japanese ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto to a 12-year, $325 million contract. It is the largest pitching contract in history.
The Dodgers went 100-62 and won the NL West for the 10th time in the last 11 seasons last year even though it was supposed to be something of a step-back year. Los Angeles was quickly swept in the Division Series by the Arizona Diamondbacks, however.