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Shohei Ohtani Puts on a Show in Spring Training Debut for the Dodgers

MLB superstar Shohei Ohtani belts a two-run homer in the fifth inning, helping his new team beat the Chicago White Sox in its Cactus League opener.

Shohei Ohtani looked right at home in Dodger blue.

Making his spring training debut for the Los Angeles Dodgers against the Chicago White Sox on Tuesday, February 27, Ohtani didn't disappoint, sparking his new team to a 9-6 win.

The two-time unanimous American League MVP hit a towering two-run home run in the bottom of the fifth inning at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Arizona, to cut Chicago's lead to 4-3.

Ohtani signed a record 10-year deal ($700 million USD, or about ¥100 billion JPY) in December 2023 and heads into the 2024 MLB season as the most talked about man in baseball.

After going through a second major right elbow surgery last September, a lot of the focus in the Cactus League games Ohtani plays in will be on his condition. 

Ohtani is not expected to pitch in 2024 and will focus on hitting. He said after leaving the game he feels he's making steady progress.

"I definitely felt good at the plate," said Ohtani, who hit an AL-leading 44 homers in 2023 for the Los Angeles Angels before adding, "I felt a little better each time I got up."

Ohtani then said, "This was just the first game and it all starts from here. I want to do everything I can to help the team."

Shohei Ohtani
Shohei Ohtani is congratulated by teammates after hitting a fifth-inning home run. (KYODO)

A Solid Start for Shohei Ohtani

The Iwate Prefecture native had three at-bats in total. In his last at-bat of the game, Ohtani gave the fans a show. Facing Dominic Leone, the Japanese star worked the count full before connecting for an opposite-field homer that easily cleared the wall in left field.

Ohtani was batting as the designated hitter, second in the Dodgers lineup behind seven-time All-Star Mookie Betts and before Freddie Freeman. That is likely where Dodgers manager Dave Roberts will use him this season although things could change.

If that sticks, that's a top of a batting order that features three former MVPs and is just one reason why expectations are so high this season for the Dodgers. 

"As a manager, you start trying to formulate a lineup and see how it looks on paper," Roberts told MLB.com. "You get a big glow on your face when you look at Ohtani, Freeman, Betts."

In his first at-bat in the first inning, Ohtani didn't hold back. 

On the second pitch he saw, Ohtani swung through a Garrett Crochet fastball that knocked his helmet off. After fouling off the next pitch, Ohtani was called out on strike three, looking at a 100-mph (161-kph) heater that caught the plate.

In his second at-bat in the third inning, Ohtani faced right-hander Justin Anderson but grounded out to second baseman Nicky Lopez on a 4-6-3 double play that did, however, tie the game 1-1.

Shohei Ohtani
Fan favorite Shohei Ohtani signs autographs before the game against the the White Sox at Camelback Ranch. (Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY SPORTS)

Dodgers Aiming for a Title in 2024

The Dodgers are hoping the addition of Ohtani will help the talent-laden lineup get over the hump. 

Despite dominating in the regular season, the Dodgers were eliminated in the National League Division Series in the past two seasons, falling to the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2023 and the San Diego Padres in 2022.

With the acquisition of Ohtani and Japanese star pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who is expected to pitch on Wednesday, the message will be loud and clear for Roberts and his players: World Series or bust.

The Dodgers open their 2024 regular season campaign with two highly anticipated games against the Padres in Seoul on March 20 and 21.

It's just a shoe!

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Author: Jim Armstrong

The author is a longtime journalist who has covered sports in Japan for over 25 years. You can find his articles on SportsLook.

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