Dodgers’ Shohei Ohtani says bruised hamstring feels better every day

Dodgers’ Shohei Ohtani says bruised hamstring feels better every day

NEW YORK – Shohei Ohtani missed a game with lower back tightness but has played through a bruised hamstring for more than a week.

But he doesn’t blame that for a .211 average (8 for 38) over his past 10 games.

“I don’t think so. Obviously, the leg isn’t that great, but I don’t personally think it’s affecting the swing,” he said through his interpreter early Monday afternoon at Citi Field before news that the day’s game had been postponed. The Dodgers and Mets will play a doubleheader on Tuesday.

Ohtani said his left hamstring is “getting better day by day.” His back issue caused him to miss the Dodgers’ game May 12 in San Diego but he said it feels “pretty good” now.

“I’ve been working out and making sure that’s in a good place,” Ohtani said.

Most of that pre-game work is done in areas off limits to the media and he almost never takes batting practice on the field with the team. So Ohtani’s most visible work is the throwing program he started in late March, six months after undergoing his second Tommy John surgery.

Every other day, Ohtani throws briefly on the field. At this point, he has increased the number of throws since playing catch for the first time on March 25 but is still throwing from less than 60 feet.

“Usually anywhere from 60-70 pitches, in that distance,” Ohtani said. “Just continuing to increase the distance and the pitches, and just seeing where that goes. I’m not quite sure how far I’m going to go out there, but that’s the progression.

“Last week, I got to 60 feet and was able to throw 80 mph.”

Even with his recent slump, Ohtani leads the majors in batting average (.336) and total bases (131) and the National League in slugging percentage (.621) and OPS (1.024). He also has stolen 13 bases, halfway to matching his career-high for a full season.

It’s the best offensive start of his career but Ohtani doesn’t necessarily attribute that to being able to focus on hitting and not devoting any time or energy to also pitching.

“It’s hard to say at this point,” he said. “I have to play a full season to see if I could really say that.”

Ohtani could progress to throwing to hitters in simulated-game settings as soon as September but the Dodgers have said he will not pitch in games again until 2025. He does miss pitching, Ohtani acknowledged.

“I think any starting pitcher can tell you that there’s a little bit of nervousness going into a game you start,” he said Monday. “In a sense, I do miss that kind of atmosphere. But right now I’m really just focusing on progressing every day and really focusing on that.”

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Visiting New York for the first time since news of the scandal involving his former interpreter and friend Ippei Mizuhara, Ohtani was asked by the local media how he has been able to perform so well on the field while dealing with the upheaval in his personal life.

“I think what affected me the most was not being able to sleep well,” he said in a familiar response. “Now that I’ve been able to do that, I also came to realize how I feel off the field mentally shouldn’t affect my abilities and I have every confidence in my own ability to still play without being affected by anything that happens off the field.”