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LAD general manager confident of ‘pitcher’ Ohtani comeback.

Will Shohei “Pitcher” Ohtani ever return to full strength?

The last time Ohtani pitched in a live game was the first game of a doubleheader against the Cincinnati Reds at Angel Stadium on Aug. 24 (ET) last year.

He left the game in the second inning after complaining of arm pain. He had been dealing with blisters and cramping issues from July and August, and his elbow had become irregular. After being shut down as a pitcher, Ohtani’s season was cut short as a hitter on Sept. 5 when he suffered an oblique muscle injury in batting practice ahead of a game against the Baltimore Orioles. That would be his last time with his Angels teammates.

Ohtani would eventually undergo elbow surgery on September 20 at the Cullan-Jobe Clinic in Los Angeles. After the surgery, the surgeon, Dr. Neil Elatrache, didn’t use the word “Tommy John surgery” (TJS), but rather “elbow ligament reinforcement surgery. He will be able to return to the field as a hitter next year and pitch fully in 2025.”

However, local experts said it was actually a TJS because it was ligament reconstruction. This is the first time he’s had the same type of surgery in the same area in five years, since October 2018, when he entered the major leagues. Naturally, there were concerns that his return to the mound would result in a loss of power.

After the season, however, Ohtani’s value in free agency skyrocketed. With his top-notch skills as a hitter already confirmed, and his ability to return as a pitcher in two years, expectations are high that he will resume his cartoonish two-hitter.

At the beginning of the free agency period, local media outlets estimated the size of Ohtani’s contract at $477 million over 10 years, MLBTR estimated $528 million over 12 years, and ESPN estimated $520 million over 10 years. However, on March 10, Ohtani announced on social media that he had “chosen the Los Angeles Dodgers as the team to play for next year,” and local media outlets reported that he had signed a 10-year, $700 million contract with the Dodgers.

Of course, 97.1% of the total, $680 million, is tied up in deferred payments that will be paid out after the end of the contract, but it’s still the largest single contract in sports history.

The Dodgers will only have to pay Ohtani $2 million per year from this year through 2034. However, they will have to pay him a staggering $68 million per year for the next 10 years. We don’t know where Ohtani will be in 10 years, but if he leaves California, he’ll be exempt from state income taxes of up to 14.4%. Paying $68 million a year to a player who doesn’t play is a huge burden.

The Dodgers will need to squeeze every last drop out of Ohtani while he’s here. To do so, he must return to pitching.

As Dodgers general manager Brandon Gomes recently told local podcast The Show, “When you look at him and talk to him about his thought process, it’s amazing how he goes about his rehab and how meticulous he is about everything. We can really count on his humanity and his self-care. Those things are woven into his rehab process. That’s very important for how efficiently he throws when he comes back. He’s an ideal specimen physically and takes great pride in his rehabilitation. He’s very organized and calculated. You can feel how well the recovery process is going. Ohtani, the medical team’s reports, and Dr. Elatrache say the same thing. Ohtani will be back and he will pitch at the same high level as before.”

In other words, the Dodgers signed a megaton contract with the certainty that Ohtani will be back next year.

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