Shohei Ohtani has barely even been a Los Angeles Dodger for a week, but he may already be getting Dave Roberts’d. The Dodgers manager Roberts appeared Friday on “The Dan Patrick Show” and revealed a bizarre possibility on the table for Ohtani late next season — playing left field.
“There was even a little talk with Shohei about, come September, when he can pick up a baseball and throw, would he be open to taking some balls out there in left field?” said Roberts. “And he said, ‘If it works, and my arm feels okay, I’m open to it.’ So we’ll see but we’ve got a lot of time before we get to that point.”
Roberts also added the obvious in that Ohtani will begin the season at designated hitter. He then said that the Dodgers fully intend on having Ohtani as a two-way player come 2025.
A lot could still change in the next nine months, and it sounds like the decision on whether or not to play left field will be a collaborative one with Ohtani. But it is strange the Dodgers are even considering it as a possibility.
Ohtani turns 30 next year and already has two major elbow surgeries under his belt including a 2018 Tommy John procedure (Ohtani emphasized at his introductory Dodgers press conference that his latest surgery wasn’t Tommy John).
Putting Ohtani in a position where he would have to throw darts back into the infield to prevent runners from advancing just figures to be a wildly unnecessary risk on his very expensive arm. Over six seasons with the Los Angeles Angels, Ohtani only played 8.1 total innings in the outfield (back when the Angels had to find creative ways to keep him in the lineup after pulling from the game as a pitcher).
Even in Japan for the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, Ohtani essentially stopped playing outfield altogether by 2015 (three years before his MLB debut).
Of course, Roberts is no stranger to having his top-of-the-line talent play out of position for the sake of greater lineup flexibility. But doing so with Ohtani months before he is even healthy enough to pitch again might be the biggest dice roll yet.