Shohei Ohtani eyes opener after 1st spring swings

Jiji Press
Shohei Ohtani of the Dodgers practices his swing at the team’s spring camp on Monday.

Los Angeles Dodgers designated hitter Shohei Ohtani took on-field batting practice for the first time with his new team on Monday at Glendale, Ariz., and put on another of his patented shows.

According to reports, Ohtani took swings at 21 pitches and hit 10 of those pitches over the fence in his first outside hitting work of spring training.

The batting-practice session was the 29-year-old’s first on a field since he underwent elbow surgery on Sept. 19 to repair a UCL tear in his right elbow.

The two-time MVP is operating within a tight recovery window to be able to play in the Dodgers’ season-opener in South Korea on March 20 against the San Diego Padres.

The Dodgers and Padres play two games in South Korea then return to resume their regular-season schedules in the United States on March 28.

The BP session has Ohtani optimistic he will be able to play on March 20.

“I was planning … to swing on the lighter side,” Ohtani told reporters Monday through an interpreter. “But I felt like the swings were feeling really good, which is a really good sign. I think it’s trending towards me being ready for Opening Day.”

Despite not being able to pitch this season, the Dodgers still signed Ohtani to a 10-year free-agent contract for a record $700 million, with $680 million of that deferred and paid out in installments from 2034-43.

The last time Ohtani took batting practice on the field was in September with the Los Angeles Angels.

Reduced to only being a hitter at that point, Ohtani eventually cut short his season a month early to undergo surgery.

In six seasons with the Angels, Ohtani won the American League Rookie of the Year in 2018 and earned AL MVP honors in 2021 and 2023. Those awards came amid two elbow injuries that required surgery.

A career .274 hitter with the Angels, Ohtani also had a .922 OPS, including a baseball-best 1.066 OPS last season. He has 171 home runs with 437 RBIs in his MLB career, including 44 home runs and 95 RBIs in 2023.

As a pitcher, Ohtani is 38-19 in 86 career starts for the Angels with a 3.01 ERA.