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Shohei Ohtani swinging 100% after surgery, wants to act like ‘rookie’ in first Dodgers camp

Ohtani and the Dodgers are getting an early start to spring training in 2024.

Shohei Ohtani of the Los Angeles Dodgers speaks to the media during DodgerFest a celebration of the upcoming season with live entertainment, behind-the-scenes experiences, food, drinks and meeting the newest Dodgers at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles on Saturday, February 3, 2024. Photo by Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images

The Los Angeles Dodgers officially kicked off spring training 2024 on Friday, becoming the first team to open camp as pitchers and catchers reported to Arizona. (The Dodgers and San Diego Padres will begin their regular season in South Korea on March 20-21, so they’ll open camp a bit earlier while the other 28 teams get going next week.)

But the most notable player in attendance on day one was someone who won’t be pitching at all in 2024: Shohei Ohtani, ready to finally get going with his new team after a whirlwind offseason.

As is the case everywhere the two-way superstar goes, Ohtani was mobbed by reporters on Friday morning and sounded like a guy who’s ready to just get back to focusing on baseball.

“I’m on a brand new team, so I’m going to act like I’m a rookie and try to get along with all the guys, and get along with my teammates,” Ohtani said (via MLB.com).

Ohtani also provided an update on his rehab from last year’s elbow surgery: He’s already swinging a bat with 100% effort, and the next step is facing a high-velocity pitching machine and then live pitchers, per the Los Angeles Times. Ohtani added that having done this before — i.e., still hitting while rehabbing his pitching elbow on the side — with the Angels back in 2019 will help him navigate the often-grueling process this time around.

The exact nature of Ohtani’s elbow surgery is still unknown, though we do know that he won’t pitch this coming season. He’ll serve strictly as the team’s DH, with Dave Roberts announcing at the team’s Fan Fest earlier this month that he’ll slot in as the No. 3 hitter in the order (per ESPN). Along with Mookie Betts’ shift to the infield, that would make for an everyday lineup that looks something like this:

  1. 2B Mookie Betts
  2. 1B Freddie Freeman
  3. DH Shohei Ohtani
  4. C Will Smith
  5. 3B Max Muncy
  6. LF Teoscar Hernández
  7. CF James Outman
  8. RF Jason Heyward
  9. SS Gavin Lux

Sounds pretty good to us, even if there are still some question marks toward the bottom fo the order — namely the health of Lux, the middle-infield options if he can’t go and how the team might platoon Hernandez and Heyward. Still, the top doesn’t get much better, especially after the 29-year-old Ohtani hit .304/.412/.654 with 44 home runs in just 135 games last season before injuries shut him down for good. He led the American League in homers, total bases, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage, and he won’t even have pitching to worry about this season.