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Shohei Ohtani set to begin throwing program with eye on returning to pitch in 2025

Ohtani will begin the program after the Dodgers return from South Korea

Shohei Ohtani won't pitch in 2024, but could we see him play in the field in addition to serving as designated hitter for the Los Angeles Dodgers?

There is a slight chance, according to Dodgers manager Dave Roberts.

With the Dodgers in South Korea for their Seoul Series games against the San Diego Padres this week, Roberts said that when the team returns home, Ohtani will begin a throwing program with an eye on returning to the mound in 2025. Should that progress in a positive direction, there is a possibility that the $700 million offseason signing could also see time in the field this season.

“Shohei this year is primarily going to be the designated hitter,” Roberts said via The Associated Press. “Once we get back to the States, he is going to start his throwing program, which he hasn’t started yet."

Dr. Neal ElAttrache, Ohtani's elbow surgeon, recently said that if the throwing program goes as planned, Ohtani could be pitching in simulated games by the end of September.

“I think with Shohei anything is possible," Roberts said.

Ohtani had a second right elbow procedure in September, and Roberts and the Dodgers' focus for Ohtani's usage this season will be at the plate. If he is able to play in the outfield, that'll happen due to a combination of the throwing program going well, a need for a player at the position and Ohtani himself feeling comfortable enough to be out there.

“We’ll see how that progression goes,” Roberts said. “If his arm is healthy enough, we’ll have that conversation.”

Ohtani has played the field only seven times in his major-league career, with all of those coming in the outfield with the Los Angeles Angels during the 2021 season.

Through eight spring games, Shohei Ohtani is 11-for-22 with two home runs and nine runs batted in. (AP Foto/Ahn Young-Joon)
Through eight spring games, Shohei Ohtani is 11-for-22 with two home runs and nine runs batted in. (AP Foto/Ahn Young-Joon) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

No rust for Ohtani

While we all wait to see if Ohtani will do more than hit this season, he has been cruising along in his recovery and will be in the Dodgers' lineup when they open the season against the Padres on Wednesday at Gocheok Sky Dome in South Korea.

Ohtani shook off any rust quickly in his first spring training game in late February, when he hit a home run in his third at-bat.

Through eight spring games, Ohtani is 11-for-22 with two home runs and nine runs batted in.

When the Dodgers and Padres begin their Seoul Series on Wednesday, Ohtani will make his debut for his new team against friend Yu Darvish.

“Darvish is somebody I’ve always looked up to,” Ohtani said. “He’s someone I really respect as a pitcher.

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Both Ohtani and Darvish began their professional careers with Japan's Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters before moving on to MLB. They later teamed up to help Japan win the 2023 World Baseball Classic.

“Of course, we have trained together in the past, but this time I will be facing him as an opponent,” Darvish said. “So I will analyze him thoroughly, and I want to face him as a batter without adding too much personal feeling.”

Ohtani has made plenty of news away from the field this offseason as well. Aside from announcing his signing with the Dodgers on Instagram, he also turned his dog, Decoy, into a star, with the pup even receiving a replica visa from the U.S. Embassy in Japan.

But Decoy made his biggest appearance of the spring weeks later, when he appeared in Ohtani's social media post announcing his marriage, which surprised many, including former teammates. Before the Dodgers left for South Korea last week, Ohtani posted his first photo with his wife, who was later identified as basketball player Mamiko Tanaka.