Dodgers' Shohei Ohtani to throw, could play field this season

ESPN logo
Monday, March 18, 2024

SEOUL, South Korea -- Shohei Ohtani may be more than just a designated hitter this season after all.

Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Monday that Ohtani -- ruled out this year as a pitcher after his second surgery on his right elbow -- will soon start a throwing program that might allow him to play in the field this season.

"Shohei this year is primarily going to be the designated hitter," Roberts said. "Once we get back to the States, he is going to start his throwing program, which he hasn't started yet. We'll see how that progression goes. If his arm is healthy enough, we'll have that conversation in the field. I do know he's not going to pitch this year."

It's the first sign that Ohtani may do more than just DH after signing a $700 million, 10-year contract with the Dodgers. Of course, when he might play in the field is unclear, as is whether it happens at all.

Ohtani and the Dodgers open the MLB season Wednesday in Seoul in a two-game series against the San Diego Padres, the first MLB games in South Korea. Ohtani has been the focus of everything, including bringing his wife with him after announcing last month he had married.

Ohtani's Japanese friend Yu Darvish will start for the Padres on Wednesday, facing Ohtani for the first time in a regulation game.

Darvish was a star for Japan's Nippon-Ham Fighters until he left for the majors after his 2011 season. The new star who stepped in for Hokkaido -- in 2013 -- was none other than Ohtani.

The two have been friends and were teammates last year when Japan defeated the United States in the final of the World Baseball Classic.

But they've never faced each other. That ends Wednesday.

"Darvish is somebody I've always looked up to," Ohtani said this week. "He's someone I really respect as a pitcher.

"I had a chance to work out with him this past offseason," Ohtani added. "He is a good friend of mine. I haven't faced him up to this point, so I'm very excited to be able to face him finally."

Darvish, who is 103-85 in his MLB career, has been overshadowed by Ohtani, but this offers him a chance to take center stage.

Ohtani's record as a pitcher in MLB is 38-19.

"Of course, we have trained together in the past, but this time I will be facing him as an opponent," Darvish said. "So I will analyze him thoroughly, and I want to face him as a batter without adding too much personal feeling."