Midway through his first season as a Dodger, Shohei Ohtani is a Hollywood blockbuster


CAUSING A SCENE — Combined photo taken on May 16 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles shows bobblehead dolls of Dodgers star Shohei Ohtani distributed to fans ahead of a game against the Cincinnati Reds. Kyodo News photo

AP Baseball Writer

CHICAGO — Halfway through his first season with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Shohei Ohtani looks quite comfortable with his new surroundings.

The Japanese slugger has been a sweet-swinging Hollywood blockbuster so far.

The Dodgers are on top of the NL West with a 53-33 record, and Ohtani has played a major role in their strong start. The two-time AL MVP is batting a career-high .320 with 27 homers, 64 RBIs and a 1.048 OPS in 83 games.

“It’s really about getting to know the guys,” Ohtani said June 25 through an interpreter. “You know I had my first impression, but really getting to know who the people are and the organization.
“As I stated before, I decided to sign with this team and wanted to do the best that I can to fit in. So I think overall, looking back, it’s been a really good first half.”

Ohtani, who turns 30 on July 5, agreed to a record-shattering $700 million, 10-year contract in December. The two-way sensation isn’t pitching this year while he recovers from elbow surgery, and it looks as if putting more of his focus on hitting is helping him at the plate.

“The reality is the workload has been a lot less,” Ohtani said. “So I can’t deny that. But at the same time, as a hitter, I’ve been getting better and overall I think I’ve been growing as a hitter, too.”

Ohtani moved into the leadoff spot after Mookie Betts was sidelined by a broken left hand.

“I don’t know what more we can really say about him,” Dodgers first baseman Freddie Freeman said. “I think we’ve said everything we can since he entered this league, about what an amazing player he is.

But when you come over here, you just never know how first year’s going to go on any team.

“Sometimes you just got to step back and just appreciate a player like this.”

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Ohtani is being more selective at the plate, and it’s paying off.

“When you do that, you earn pitches in the strike zone, and when he does that, a lot of special things happen,” Roberts said.

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