Dodgers Spring Training: Yoshinobu Yamamoto Wants To ‘Keep Getting Better’

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Despite never throwing a pitch in MLB, Yoshinobu Yamamoto was given the largest contract for a pitcher in league history by the Los Angeles Dodgers with the hopes he will be the ace of their staff for the next decade.

Yamamoto dominated in Japan and won three consecutive Eiji Sawamura Awards, which is given out to the best pitcher in Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB). Due to his talent, age and unique profile, the Dodgers made the bet Yamamoto will live up to his contract and help them bring another championship back to L.A.

The 25-year-old threw his first live batting practice session on Saturday and impressed everyone who watched. After throwing the live batting practice with extremely positive results, Yamamoto said his goal is to keep improving, via Sam Blum of The Athletic:

“That felt pretty good and it was good for me to have the opportunity to face the actual hitters,” Yamamoto said, via an interpreter. “I think this is not the best yet and I’m going to keep adjusting with what I need to and it’s going to keep getting better.”

Yamamoto faced Freddie Freeman, Mookie Betts, Austin Barnes, Max Muncy, Jason Heyward and Manuel Margot during the session. Freeman, who is not fooled by many pitchers, came away with high praise for the right-hander, who the veteran described as “the whole package” and “nasty.”

While it’s hard to envision how much more Yamamoto can actually improve after fooling some of the best hitters in MLB and establishing himself as arguably the best pitcher in NPB history to make the jump stateside, there’s also reason to believe he can be.

Yamamoto has been adjusting to the baseballs used in MLB, which are slightly bigger and slicker than the ones used in NPB. So to still be that impressive while not being totally comfortable with grips and feel for the baseball is a feat in itself.

Yoshinobu Yamamoto making Dodgers debut in South Korea

As part of the MLB World Tour, the Dodgers are opening the 2024 season with a two-game series against the San Diego Padres in South Korea.

The Seoul Series will be played at Gocheok Sky Dome from March 20-21, with 7:05 p.m. local start times (3:05 a.m. PT).

While the Dodgers still have a little more than a month before their season begins, the team is already planning to start Yamamoto in one of their two opening games in Seoul.

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