Yoshinobu Yamamoto throws 2 impressive, scoreless innings in MLB exhibition debut for Dodgers

SURPRISE, Ariz. (AP) — Yoshinobu Yamamoto struck out three batters over two scoreless innings in his exhibition debut on Wednesday, giving a glimpse into why the Los Angeles Dodgers believe the Japanese right-hander can become a big league ace,

Yamamoto opened by striking out Texas Rangers All-Star Marcus Semien on six pitches, then gave up Evan Carter's single before Wyatt Langford grounded into an inning-ending double play.

Yamamoto started the second by striking out Nathaniel Lowe on three pitches and retiring Jonah Heim on a flyout to left. Working with a long, deliberate windup and a fastball that hovered in the mid-90s, Yamamoto ended his outing by striking out Leody Taveras on four pitches.

He threw 16 of 19 pitches for strikes, showing the impeccable command that made him a star in Japan.

Lowe and Taveras took particularly weak swings on strike three, highlighting Yamamoto's dominance.

The 25-year-old right-hander has been the less-publicized part of a $1 billion offseason investment by the Dodgers into a pair of Japanese stars. Los Angeles signed Shohei Ohtani to a record $700 million, 10-year contract in December while Yamamoto finalized his $325 million, 12-year deal a few weeks later.

Ohtani has played six seasons in Major League Baseball with the Los Angeles Angels, winning two AL MVP awards and making three All-Star teams. Yamamoto is making his debut in the U.S. this season, though his recent performances in Japan have been phenomenal.

Listed at 5-foot-10, Yamamoto has been Japan's most dominant pitchers over the past several seasons, with a 16-6 record and a 1.21 ERA for the Orix Buffaloes in 2023. He has a career 1.72 ERA in Japan in nearly 1,000 innings. His six-pitch repertoire includes a dependable splitter, an effective four-seam fastball and a vicious curveball.

The Dodgers believe he has the talent to be a staff ace in the U.S. and his presence will be vital in 2024 while Ohtani — a rare two-way star — recovers from an elbow injury. Ohtani will hit in 2024 but isn't expected to pitch until 2025.


AP Sports Writer Beth Harris in Los Angeles contributed to this report.



David Brandt, The Associated Press