WATCH: Shohei Ohtani makes Dodgers debut after signing $700M deal, strikes out in first spring training at-bat

Shohei Ohtani, the biggest baseball star in the world, made his Los Angeles Dodgers debut on Tuesday. Manning DH and batting second in Dave Roberts’ lineup – wedged between Mookie Betts in the leadoff spot and Freddie Freeman in the three hole – Ohtani saw game action as a Dodger for the first time in their Cactus League matchup with the White Sox at Camelback Ranch in Arizona.

Ohtani’s first turn at the plate came in the bottom of the first against hard-throwing Chicago lefty Garrett Crochet. Much to the disappointment of the raucous crowd, he struck out looking after losing his helmet on a wild swing earlier in the at-bat.

The 29-year-old Ohtani, normally a two-way superstar, will be limited to DH duty this season as he recovers from elbow surgery. By 2025, he should be back to hitting and pitching – a historically unique tandem of skills that allowed him to win two American League MVP awards as a member of the Angels. That September elbow surgery kept Ohtani out of the Dodgers’ first four spring-training games and may imperil his status for the season-opening Seoul Series against the Padres in Korea, which is scheduled for March 20-21. That, however, is a fluid situation, and that Ohtani was indeed able to be in Tuesday’s lineup is a promising step forward from the cage work and live at-bats that had constituted his spring to date. 

Ohtani is coming off a 2023 walk year for the Angels in which he batted .304/.412/.654 with an AL-best 44 home runs and on the mound pitched 132 innings with a 3.14 ERA and 167 strikeouts. Earlier this winter, he inked a record $700 million free-agent contract with the Dodgers, albeit one that includes heavy and unprecedented salary deferrals. 

Ohtani joined a Dodgers team packed with stars, including his countryman and new L.A. ace Yoshinobu Yamamoto. Throw in the Dodgers’ recent history of regular-season dominance and long run of postseason appearances, and expectations are sky-high for 2024.

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