Dodgers Pitching Coach Provides Hopeful Update on Shohei Ohtani's Throwing Program

Mark Prior could have doused water on any hope that Shohei Ohtani would be facing hitters by the end of this season. He didn't.
May 7, 2024; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers player Shohei Ohtani plays catch on flat ground before a home game at Dodger Stadium.
May 7, 2024; Los Angeles, California, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers player Shohei Ohtani plays catch on flat ground before a home game at Dodger Stadium. / Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
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Shohei Ohtani's progress as a pitcher has been steady and unremarkable. When the Dodgers returned from Los Angeles from their season-opening series in Seoul, South Korea, Ohtani began throwing from flat ground every other day.

Wednesday in San Francisco, Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register reported Ohtani is continuing to make progress:

While it's great to hear that Ohtani is doing well, one question lingering in the minds of Dodger fans seems almost impossible to answer: is there a chance Ohtani will be pitching by the end of the 2024 season?

For now, all anyone can offer is speculation. Last September, Ohtani underwent an "enhanced" Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. And while his recovery as a hitter has been phenomenal, the special nature of Ohtani's surgery and rehab make it impossible to predict whether a return to the mound this year is possible.

Pitching coach Mark Prior is here to tell you there's a chance.

In an interview with MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM, Dodgers pitching coach Mark Prior relegated that possibility to the realm of "hope" — but didn't rule it out, either:

"We haven't gotten too intimate on the pitching side other than starting the initial throwing program and we'll see where he gets to by the end of this summer. Hopefully by playoffs he's up on the mound and starting to face some hitters."

Dodgers pitching coach Mark Prior

For all the caution wrapped up in that prognosis, Prior certainly could have toed the company line about Ohtani not being expected to pitch until 2025. The key to parsing those words is, in what context might Ohtani be facing hitters in 2024?

If he's merely able to pitch simulated games before the Dodgers' season ends, that would be great — but not necessarily a precursor for Ohtani taking the mound in any September or October games of consequence. Ohtani has been a starting pitcher throughout his major league career, but would almost certainly be relegated to bullpen duties if he's able to pitch at all in 2024.

Prior's words merely added a faint bit of fuel to the already small embers of hope that Ohtani might resume his pitching career before year's end.


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J.P. Hoornstra

J.P. HOORNSTRA

J.P. Hoornstra writes and edits Major League Baseball content for Inside the Dodgers, and is the author of 'The 50 Greatest Dodger Games Of All Time.' He once recorded a keyboard solo on the same album as two of the original Doors.