Monday, April 22, 2024

WATCH: Shohei Ohtani homers in spring training Dodgers debut after signing $700 million deal

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Shohei Ohtani, the biggest baseball star in the world, made his Los Angeles Dodgers debut on Tuesday. Manning DH and batting second in Dave Roberts’ lineup – wedged between Mookie Betts in the leadoff spot and Freddie Freeman in the three hole – Ohtani saw game action as a Dodger for the first time in their Cactus League matchup with the White Sox at Camelback Ranch in Arizona.

Ohtani’s first two at-bats were forgettable — he struck out looking in his first at-bat and grounded into a double play his second time up — but of course the third time is a charm. In his third at-bat Tuesday, Ohtani lifted a towering two-run home run to the opposite field against Chicago righty Dominic Leone. To the action footage: 

According to the Los Angeles Times, the ball traveled 377 feet and left Ohtani’s bat at 102 mph. The home run was Ohtani’s final at-bat of the day — it’s typical for players to get only two or three at-bats in the early days of spring training — and his upcoming schedule has not yet been announced. He may get Wednesday off before returning to the lineup Thursday.

The 29-year-old Ohtani, normally a two-way superstar, will be limited to DH duty this season as he recovers from elbow surgery. By 2025, he should be back to hitting and pitching – a historically unique tandem of skills that allowed him to win two American League MVP awards as a member of the Angels. That September elbow surgery kept Ohtani out of the Dodgers’ first four spring-training games and may imperil his status for the season-opening Seoul Series against the Padres in Korea, which is scheduled for March 20-21. That, however, is a fluid situation, and that Ohtani was indeed able to be in Tuesday’s lineup is a promising step forward from the cage work and live at-bats that had constituted his spring to date. 

Ohtani is coming off a 2023 walk year for the Angels in which he batted .304/.412/.654 with an AL-best 44 home runs and on the mound pitched 132 innings with a 3.14 ERA and 167 strikeouts. Earlier this winter, he inked a record $700 million free-agent contract with the Dodgers, albeit one that includes heavy and unprecedented salary deferrals

Ohtani joined a Dodgers team packed with stars, including his countryman and new L.A. ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto. Throw in the Dodgers’ recent history of regular-season dominance and long run of postseason appearances, and expectations are sky-high for 2024.

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