Connect with us


Seoul Series: Dodgers Manager Outlines Plans for Ohtani and Yamamoto Ahead of Opener

Starting with the Seoul Series, skipper Dave Roberts has a heavy responsibility to make sure the two Japanese stars have a seamless transition to the Dodgers.



Seoul Series
Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts speaks to reporters on March 17, 2024, in Seoul. (KYODO)

SEOUL ― Ahead of Major League Baseball's season-opening Seoul Series, Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts spoke about how he plans to use Shohei Ohtani this season as the Japanese star makes his way back to becoming a two-way player.

The Dodgers will take on the San Diego Padres in MLB's 2024 season opener in Seoul on Wednesday, March 20, follow by another game on Thursday, March 21. It is the first time MLB has staged regular-season games in South Korea.

It also marks the Dodger debut for Ohtani, who signed a record $700 million USD (more than ¥100 billion JPY), 10-year contract in December 2023. At that time, it was known Ohtani would only bat in 2024 as he recovers from a second right elbow surgery in September.

Seoul Series
Shohei Ohtani stretches during a pregame workout at Gocheok Sky Dome on March 18. (KYODO)

An Update on Ohtani's Recovery From Elbow Surgery

While he will be used as a designated hitter this season, Roberts revealed that preparations for Ohtani to resume pitching will start sooner than some might have thought.

Roberts confirmed that Ohtani will begin a throwing program when the club returns to the United States this weekend after the two-game series in Seoul.

"Once we get back to the States, he's going to start his throwing program, which he hasn't started yet," Roberts said during a Tuesday press conference at Gocheok Sky Dome. 

"We'll see how that progression goes," added Roberts. "If his arm is healthy enough, we'll have that conversation in the field. I do know he's not going to pitch this year."


When pressed if it is possible Ohtani could face hitters at some point this season, Roberts said he would defer to the Dodgers team physician who performed the surgery.

"With Shohei anything is possible, but I haven't heard that one," Roberts said. "If that's what Dr [Neal] ElAttrache said, he's the expert."

Hitting Stars at the Top of the Batting Order

In terms of batting, Roberts said he likes the batting order that he has used so far in spring training with Mookie Betts leading off, Ohtani batting second followed by Freddie Freeman. All three players have won MVP awards.

"Right now having Mookie, Ohtani and Freddie Freeman in the [top] three, I think it's kind of intrinsic to who they are," Roberts said. 

"Mookie really prides himself on being at the top of the order, sparking an offense," Roberts explained. "With Shohei sandwiched in between Freddie, there is a high probability that someone is going to be on base in front of Shohei and having Freddie behind him adds protection."

Seoul Series
Dodgers newcomer Yoshinobu Yamamoto is set to start Game 2 of the series on March 21. (©SANKEI)

Insights on Dodgers Newcomer Yamamoto

Roberts also spoke extensively about Japanese pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who signed a $325 million (approximately ¥48 billion), 12-year deal with the Dodgers in the off-season and will be the starter in Game 2 of the Seoul Series.

Yamamoto was a star in Japan for NPB's Orix Buffaloes, winning three Sawamura Awards as NPB's top pitcher. But the transition to MLB isn't always easy and it will be up to Roberts to make sure Yamamoto's transition is as smooth as possible.

"Yoshinobu's velocity is not going to alarm anyone," Roberts said. "And then you are talking about a curveball, a split, a slider once in a while. I know the stuff is top end and the sequencing part of it is crucial."


Roberts added, "I'm curious to see how he adjusts to each hitter in that cat-and-mouse game and they are going to have to adjust to him as well."

When Daisuke Matsuzaka went to the Boston Red Sox in 2007, Roberts' former team, much was made about conflicts the Japanese pitcher had with Boston's management about how the team used him.

Seoul Series
Yoshinobu Yamamoto and his Dodgers teammates and the San Diego Padres have been the center of media attention in Seoul. (©SANKEI)

Building Trust with Yamamoto

Roberts told reporters that he doesn't anticipate similar problems with Yamamoto and said he believes the Dodgers will be in the driver's seat.

"Obviously, Yoshinobu knows his strengths," Roberts said. "But I think in the early going we've done a very good job of building trust in him and him with us. I think [our coaches] are going to put together game plans with the catchers."

The skipper then said, "I don't think there is going to be a lot of shaking, I think there is going to be a lot of trust, and as he starts to learn hitters and do his own research and watch video, it will even out a bit more. But I think at the end of the day, it's more about us driving him."

Ohtani Fever in Seoul

Meanwhile, Ohtani fever has very much taken hold in the South Korean capital.

South Korean baseball fans aren't known for embracing Japanese players but that's not the case with Ohtani. His No 17 Dodgers jersey is a hot item on the streets around Gocheok Sky Dome. 

Seoul Series
The Dodgers' Shohei Ohtani bats in the third inning against the South Korea national team in an exhibition game on March 18 at Gocheok Sky Dome. (©SANKEI)

Ohtani spoke of all the attention he has received since here for the Seoul Series and how he is fitting in with his new teammates.


"I appreciate all the attention, obviously," Ohtani said through interpreter Ippei Mizuhara. "Attention's always great, being a baseball player and being able to play with these great guys next to me (Betts, Freeman), I'm just really excited. I'm excited to be part of the team and prove to everyone that I'm actually a Dodger now."

Seoul Series
San Diego Padres pitcher Yu Darvish plays catch a day before the season-opening series. (KYODO)

Padres' Darvish to Start Seoul Series Opener

One of the highlights of Game 1 for Japanese fans at least will be the chance to see San Diego starter Yu Darvish facing his former World Baseball Classic teammate Ohtani.

"I'm very excited to be the starter against the Dodgers," Darvish said, looking ahead to the Seoul Series. "I've been through a lot of training and I've played with Shohei a lot, but we are professionals and I want to have a great performance against him."

Tyler Glasnow will start for the Dodgers. He said he's been impressed with buzz at the Gocheok stadium after seeing exhibition games there and hopes to see Korean style cheerleading catch on in the US.

In a typical Korea Baseball Organization game, there are cheering teams on either side of the diamond. Cheerleaders take to stages set up along the first and third base sides to get the fans worked up.

It's something you don't see in the major leagues or Nippon Professional Baseball.

"The atmosphere here has been great," Glasnow said. "It's been very electric. I like the songs and the sounds going on in between innings, I hope we can adapt that back home."

Seoul Series
Cheerleaders perform at Gocheok Sky Dome, where the Dodgers faced the Korea Baseball Organization's Kiwoom Heroes, on March 17. (KYODO)


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.

Our Partners