Shohei Ohtani has an outfielder's glove, but don't expect him in the field anytime soon

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Shohei Ohtani won’t take the mound as a pitcher this season, not after undergoing his second Tommy John surgery last September.

That doesn’t mean, however, he came to his first Dodgers spring training empty-handed … or empty-gloved.

After making his Cactus League debut with the Dodgers on Tuesday afternoon, Ohtani told Japanese reporters that he does have an outfielder’s glove with him in camp, just in case the need arises to play the position at some point this coming season.

“Something like that could happen,” Ohtani said in Japanese. “I think it’s important to be ready.”

But don’t expect to see the two-time MVP trotting to the outfield anytime soon.

Ohtani has offered to the Dodgers to play the outfield if needed this season, a person with knowledge of the situation but not authorized to speak publicly said. But the team currently has no plans to use him on defense — especially not while he continues to rehabilitate an elbow injury that has limited his ability to throw this spring.

“I don’t see that happening,” manager Dave Roberts said when asked about potentially using Ohtani in the outfield. “We’ve constructed our roster with the fact that we have plenty of outfield depth, and to have him be our [designated hitter]. Until I hear otherwise, the only focus for me is having him DH.”

Ohtani has never played outfield regularly in the majors, and only did so sparingly in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball league earlier in his career.

His seven MLB outfield appearances all came in 2021 with the Angels, before the league adopted a rule that allowed Ohtani to remain in games as a hitter even after he departed as a pitcher. That year, he spent 8⅓ innings in the field. And not once did he have a legitimate chance to catch a ball.

Despite that, some evaluators around the sport have long believed in Ohtani’s ability to be a plus outfielder defensively, noting his speed, athleticism and throwing strength as obvious fits at the position.

The Dodgers haven’t completely closed the door on the possibility this season, either, according to people with knowledge of the team’s thinking who were granted anonymity. In time, they could always reassess the idea depending on Ohtani’s health and their roster needs.

“I think it’s great [that he is open to it],” Roberts said. “Like I said, I don’t know how that’s gonna play out. But for him to have his mind on potentially doing that, that only makes the Dodgers better. If his thought is to get healthy and help the Dodgers win baseball games, I’m all for it.”

For now, however, at this early stage of both the season and Ohtani’s elbow rehab, the team “isn’t even thinking about” using him in the outfield, one source said.

“He’s in the process of rehabbing his elbow,” Roberts echoed. “Playing the field, let alone pitching, that’s a ways off.”

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