Ohtani feels like he’s a rookie again with Dodgers-ZoomTech News

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Roughly 70 media members shaped a half-circle round a small backdrop on the Los Angeles Dodgers’ facility late Friday morning, ready for Shohei Ohtani to conduct his first media session. A couple of dozen of them had proven up hours earlier, earlier than the solar had totally risen, simply to catch a glimpse of him driving into the gamers’ car parking zone.

Ohtani’s gravitas has been manifestly apparent by the primary two days of spring coaching, however he is merely attempting to conduct himself as the brand new man. After six years with the crosstown rival Los Angeles Angels, he sees himself as a “rookie” once more.

“I wish to go up and say hello, introduce myself,” Ohtani stated by his interpreter, Ippei Mizuhara. “However there are such a lot of people who I’ve to verify I do not introduce myself twice. If I do, hopefully they will let it go.”

Ohtani stated he is near swinging at full depth and can quickly start hitting velocity, an indication that he stays on monitor to be the Dodgers’ designated hitter when the workforce opens its season in South Korea on March 20. He dismissed considerations in regards to the complexities of making ready himself as a hitter whereas rehabbing elbow surgical procedure as a pitcher, noting he beforehand went by that course of main as much as the 2022 season. He believes will probably be “simpler the second time round.”

The dedication and self-discipline that allowed Ohtani to thrive as a two-way participant from 2021 to 2023 is already standing out. Dodgers supervisor Dave Roberts has observed how “intentional” and “regimented” Ohtani is along with his work, including that “each minute on the clock issues,” leaving valuable few of them for small speak. Different gamers, Roberts stated, have made it some extent to watch him.

“I do not assume I’ve ever seen anyone extra meticulous with their work, with each rep,” stated Dodgers infielder Chris Taylor, among the many small group of gamers who gathered at Dodger Stadium for exercises main as much as the beginning of spring coaching, alongside Ohtani, Gavin Lux and Walker Buehler, amongst others.

“Clearly we knew his work ethic was prime shelf,” Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman stated, “however to see how deliberate every little thing he does is — our coaching workers has commented that they’ve by no means seen a man coming back from surgical procedure that’s so intentional about each single factor they do, from each swing he takes. Most guys get within the cage and so they simply sort of mindlessly swing. He does his entire pre-pitch routine earlier than each swing. Simply how intentional each single factor he does, whether or not it is within the weight room, the cage, out on the sector, which you could’t actually totally recognize till you see.”

Ohtani was identified with a Grade 2 sprain of his ulnar collateral ligament in his proper (pitching) elbow three months into his main league profession in 2018 and did not emerge as a full-time two-way participant till the beginning of his fourth season. From 2021 to 2023, Ohtani received two MVPs unanimously — he would’ve had a 3rd if not for Aaron Judge‘s record-breaking dwelling run season in 2022 — and amassed 26.5 FanGraphs wins above substitute, way over anyone else.

On Friday, Roberts confirmed what has lengthy been apparent — that Ohtani, who underwent a hybrid model of a second Tommy John surgical procedure in September, is not an choice to pitch at any level in 2024. He believes having him as a Dodger will nonetheless “elevate the bar” for the entire workforce, although Ohtani is simply fulfilling half his duties.

“There’s only a nice sense of humility and kindness,” Roberts stated of Ohtani, “however there’s that lion in there. You see it. And that, for me — that is the proper combo.”

Roberts advised a DodgerFest crowd this previous Saturday about his plan to bat Mookie Betts leadoff, Freddie Freeman second and Ohtani third when the video games start to depend, however he cautioned Friday that he was simply throwing that alignment out as an “train” to gauge fan sentiment. He needs to have a dialog with all three of them earlier than solidifying the primary three spots.

Ohtani considerably improved as a hitter from 2022 to 2023, his OPS leaping from .875 to a significant league-leading 1.066. There was a thought inside the Angels that juggling a two-way position truly helped him offensively, largely as a result of he did not have time to dwell on detrimental outcomes. However maybe focusing completely as a DH once more — whereas residing in a superior lineup, and with way more expertise than when he final took on that position completely in 2019 — will elevate his offensive recreation even additional.

“I really feel like there’s not only one degree however a number of ranges forward offense-wise,” Ohtani stated. “It is simply going to rely on what sort of lineup I am in and every little thing. However on the finish, my focus goes to be the identical — maintain the give attention to my hitting and attempting to get higher.”

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