Dave Roberts: Shohei Ohtani Open To Playing Left Field For Dodgers

Originally published by DodgerBlue.com

Shohei Ohtani is officially a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers, which has brought a wave of excitement to fans, coaches, front office personnel and players alike.

Although the challenge of getting Ohtani to sign with the team is now over, there is still going to be some work for Dodgers manager Dave Roberts and the training staff to navigate a variety of fronts with the two-way star.

For the training staff, that involves Ohtani’s rehab process as he recovers from right elbow surgery and making sure he is healthy to play on a daily basis. For Roberts, he’s going to have to figure out where Ohtani fits into the Dodgers lineup, which is likely to be in the second or third spot.

But one thing is for sure, Roberts knows what position to pencil Ohtani into every day, he said on the Dan Patrick Show:

“It’s two initials, two letters: DH. So he’s going to DH. He’s taking dry swings now, and his goal is to be ready by Opening Day, so I hope that holds. But he’s going to be ready when he’s going to be ready.”

It’s not a surprise Ohtani is going to be the Dodgers’ designated hitter, especially as he recovers from surgery and is unable to pitch. That’s the position Ohtani played for the Los Angeles Angels on both days he did and didn’t start on the mound, and it helps keep the wear and tear on his body down as a two-way player.

However, although Ohtani is not going to pitch next season, when he is able to throw again, there’s a possibility of playing left field late in 2024:

“There was even a little talk with Shohei about come September, when he can pick up a baseball and throw, would he be open to taking some balls out there in left field? And he said, ‘If it works, and my arm feels OK, I’m open to it.’ So we’ll see, but we’ve got a lot of time before we get to that point.”

Ohtani has played 8.1 total innings in the outfield during his MLB career, which all came in 2021. He also played the outfield in Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) with the Nippon-Ham Fighters, appearing in 62 total games on the grass with time in both left field and right field.

If Ohtani is able to throw from the outfield without it affecting his rehab, it would certainly make sense to give him some opportunities to let other players DH for a break from the field.

But the Dodgers don’t have to consider that for quite a while, and for Roberts, he’s just enjoying the “pinch-me phase” of the signing.

“I can’t believe we’re going to have an opportunity to have him war a Dodgers uniform,” Roberts said at Ohtani’s introductory press conference.

“One of the most talented players to ever put on a baseball uniform is now a Dodger as far as we can see out.”

When is Shohei Ohtani going to pitch again?

The expectation is Ohtani will be ready to pitch for the Dodgers in the 2025 season and he will resume his unique two-way role. Once he is making starts as a pitcher, it’s unlikely the Dodgers would play Ohtani in the outfield, aside from a potential emergency situation.

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