Dodgers fans shouldn’t read into Shohei Ohtani playing defense anytime soon

Los Angeles Dodgers v Texas Rangers
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Ahead of his Dodgers debut on Tuesday, Shohei Ohtani opened a package that had the clubhouse buzzing. It contained two gloves — one for the outfield and one for first base — and immediately set off alarm bells and speculation that we'd see Ohtani play the field after being expected to DH throughout the season.

Ohtani's never appeared in the outfield since he came to MLB, but he did make a little over 60 starts there (mostly in right) in NPB. He's made it clear that he's a team player before anything else, so it would make sense that he'd be eager to contribute in any way he can before he can make his return to the mound in 2025.

However, Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic swiftly shut down the possibility of Ohtani playing in the field, writing that the gloves were for practice purposes only, a way to keep him active and progress through rehab for his elbow, upon which he underwent UCL surgery on last year (sub. required). Dave Roberts doubled down, saying their focus was solely on having him DH.

Despite two new gloves, Dodgers fans shouldn't expect Shohei Ohtani to appear in the field this year

It's been 10 years since Ohtani made a professional outfield appearance and the sample size is small, but he only made one error and had 90 putouts in 98 chances. Seeing him out there in the major leagues would definitely be an exciting novelty, but it also makes sense that the Dodgers want to keep their highest-paid player as far away from the possibility to injure himself further or hinder his rehab as possible.

Keeping Ohtani loose and starting to work on his throwing is paramount, though. Ardaya notes that he hasn't started his throwing progression and he doesn't have a timeline to recovery yet. This year seems to be all about hitting and getting himself acclimated with the team; he reported with pitchers and catchers to Dodgers spring training and has been a frequent presence during bullpen sessions.

Still, Ohtani keeps giving us things to look forward to. This year, we get to see what he can do when his focus is entirely on hitting. In 2025, we get more excitement while we track his recovery and what will then be long-awaited return to the mound.