Shohei Ohtani interested in home run derby but Dodgers sound reluctant

Shohei Ohtani expressed an interest in participating in this summer’s home run derby, but the Dodgers slugger — who has been one of baseball’s best hitters while rehabilitating from his second Tommy John surgery — appears a long way from committing to the event, and the Dodgers seem reluctant to allow him to do it.

“I don’t know,” Ohtani said in Japanese following Tuesday night’s 4-3 win over the Chicago White Sox in which he hit his National League-leading 24th home run.

“I have to get an offer first. I’m also rehabilitating, so I need the doctor’s approval and the trainers’ approval and the team’s approval.

“Of course, I have feelings of wanting to do it. I think any player would. I think it depends on how it lines up with the other parts.”

Ohtani, who signed a 10-year, $700-million deal with the Dodgers in December, participated in the derby only once during his six-year career with the Angels, teaming with slugger Juan Soto to stage a memorable first-round duel in Colorado in 2021.

Ohtani mashed 28 homers, including two that traveled 500 feet or more in high-altitude Coors Field, but Soto hit 31 homers to advance to the second round.

Ohtani looked gassed during the one-minute bonus round, which only highlights the potential dangers of taking so many maximum-effort swings in such a short amount of time for a player recovering from elbow reconstruction surgery.

“For the game, I think it’s great, for the workload part of it, I’d probably not want him to do it,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said before Wednesday night’s series finale against the White Sox. “For me, I think ultimately I will just defer to him.

“No one can argue that a manager wouldn’t want their player to swing as hard as he can for essentially 45 minutes when [that player] is supposed to be on a break, right? But the other side is, obviously, he’s the biggest star in the game, and it makes [the derby] more attractive. So I think whatever he decides, I’ll support it.”

Roberts said a conversation with Ohtani about the derby, which will be held on July 15 as part of All-Star Game festivities at Texas, “is gonna happen,” and that Ohtani’s rehabilitation from surgery definitely complicates things.

“I don’t ever want to be the guy that says you can’t do it, because I wouldn’t want to have somebody tell me I couldn’t do it,” Roberts said. “But the surgery adds a different component. It’s rounds and rounds of [swings].”

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