LA Dodgers manager Dave Roberts still can’t believe that he has become a team with Shohei Ohtani.
Roberts told reporters ahead of the start of spring camp at Camelback Ranch Glendale in Glendale, Arizona, on the 10th (Korea time), “I’m still pinching my cheek when I see him in a Dodger uniform.”
Ohtani agreed to a 10-year, $700 million contract with the Dodgers in December last year.
“Otani trained a lot at Dodger Stadium during the off-season. He got used to his home stadium and commuting hours. He joined the team early on. When I see him training, he seems to have intentions in everything. It’s amazing, but it’s not something that I didn’t expect,” Roberts said in appreciation of Ohtani’s sincerity.꽁머니
“It will be hard to ignore what kind of player he is and how big his contract he received. But as a Dodgers player, he just wants to win. He will want to be treated like no other, and so will we. Words are easier than actions, but that’s the goal,” he said.
He said he had a brief conversation with Ohtani, adding, “Ohtani is a player who values every minute. I don’t have time to just walk around or chat and waste my time. I’m strictly following my plans. I’m trying to respect that,” he praised Ohtani’s sincerity again.
As for his English skills, he said, “I don’t want this to be known, but he is also good at English. I talked to Ichiro before, and he was good at English, too. But he will still feel comfortable going around with Ichiro.”
Roberts brought up the case of former teammate Barry Bonds, saying, “Bonds focused on his own build-up and I got a lot of questions related to him as his colleague,” when asked about Ohtani not saying much to the media.
When asked who he thinks will fill his role with the Dodgers, he brought up outfielder Jason Heyward. “The Japanese reporters are asking him questions about Ohtani now,” he said with a smile.
Ohtani, who has two-time experience as rookie and MVP of the year, is currently rehabilitating after elbow surgery, and this camp will rehabilitate as a pitcher and prepare for the season as a batter.
Roberts said, “Until I hear something different, he is a batter. I’m watching him swing and he looks good,” adding that Ohtani will focus on batting in the 2024 season.
“What I’ve heard is that as a pitcher, he will be ready in 2025. I don’t think it will be a problem (to play as a hitter in 2024),” he said, adding that combining the two jobs will not interfere with his rehabilitation.
Regarding the mention of Mookie Betts as the No. 1, Freddie Freeman as the No. 2, and Ohtani as the No. 3 hitter at the fanfest site, he said, “Fans want Mookie and Freddie to hit ahead of Ohtani. I said I would put more weight on such batting order, but I didn’t say how much I would do,” and said he could make changes depending on the matchup while talking to the players.
With Ohtani joining the team, the Dodgers has emerged as a strong candidate for the 2024 season. As the Dodgers has failed to win the Division Series for two consecutive years, expectations for its upcoming season will inevitably rise.
“I think the acquisition of Ohtani has lifted the bar for all of us,” Roberts said of the increased expectations. “A lot of eyes are on our team. We have to feel responsible for this and show a high level of performance. It’s good for us,” Roberts said of the increased expectations.