shohei ohtani says hell be ready for opening day after elbow surgery dodgers already know where hell hit

Shohei Ohtani says he’ll be ready for Opening Day after elbow surgery, Dodgers already know where he’ll hit

Fans who want to watch Shohei Ohtani‘s debut with the Los Angeles Dodgers will have to wait until 3 a.m. PT for the team’s opener against the San Diego Padres in South Korea on March 20.

They can at least feel confident he’ll actually be playing that game.

Appearing at DodgerFest on Saturday, Ohtani told reporters through an interpreter he feels “very confident” he will be ready for Opening Day after undergoing surgery for a torn UCL at the end of last season. He went into further detail while speaking with SportsNet LA:

“As far as the hitting goes, I’m already swinging close to 100% so I feel like as long as everything goes as planned — and right now, it has been going — I should be ready for Korea, the Opening Day. And as far as the pitching side, we still haven’t really started anything.

“The plan is to start rehab in spring in Arizona and kinda take it slower from there. Compared to my first surgery rehab, I feel like this time around is a lot quicker and everything is just a lot smoother.”

Ohtani is not expected to pitch at all in 2024. While his agent denied he underwent a second Tommy John surgery, it’s clear Ohtani did have a ligament repaired that can be very tricky to recover from a second time, so the Dodgers are obviously not going to take any risks with their $700 million man.

Los Angeles Dodgers' Shohei Ohtani walks to the stage during the team's fan fest in Los Angeles, Saturday, Feb. 3, 2024. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

Shohei Ohtani will be the Dodgers’ No. 3 hitter. (AP Photo/Kyusung Gong)

The Dodgers apparently already have Ohtani’s spot in the lineup figured out. Manager Dave Roberts told fans that Ohtani will bat third, with Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman occupying the 1-2 spots they did last year.

It’s not exactly a surprise the Dodgers are batting their three elite hitters in the top three spots in the lineup, though it’s worth pointing out going Betts-Freeman-Ohtani will mean batting their two top left-handed batters back-to-back, potentially giving opposing managers an easy choice on how to navigate platoons in the late innings.

Then again, Freeman hit .335/.399/.609 in 218 plate appearances against left-handed pitchers last season and Ohtani was still respectable at .245/.365/.532 in 170 PAs, so southpaws will have to be wary.

During his time with the Los Angeles Angels, Ohtani hit third in 247 out of 701 games, including 59 out of 135 games last season.

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