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USA Today via Reuters

The Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts may have ruffled some feathers by holding Shohei Ohtani out of the lineup on Sunday. However, Ohtani might see it differently. Even teammates like Kiké Hernandez pointed out that it was a “promising start” to a crucial relationship for the Dodgers. But perhaps keeping the two-way phenom out of his own way was key in order to keep him healthy. 

Ohtani, eager to face fellow countryman Yu Darvish, reportedly wanted to play despite experiencing back tightness. However, Roberts put his foot down, prioritizing Ohtani’s long-term health over a single game. But clearly, the two-way phenom did not expect Roberts’ decision.

Dave Roberts takes things into his control despite Shohei Ohtani wanting otherwise

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While Roberts’ opinion is, “I think [Ohtani] understands that it’s for his benefit and the team’s benefit” Ohtani shared his perspective in a press conference. He shared, “I was told that I was getting a day off, just an earlier day off than I expected”. It becomes evident that the Dodgers’ skipper was only trying to protect ‘Shotime’ from himself. 

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The manager was right after all, in one of the statements from Ohtani, he shared, “Just some discomfort while working out. I personally feel like I can play but just taking it easy”. On one hand, the 2x unanimous MVP knows his body well. On the other, as a manager, ensuring players’ long term health for maximum efficiency is key. And that is exactly what Roberts seems to have done. 

The Dodgers, are competitive about their championship aspirations and deep roster. That is all the more the reason to take a more cautious approach. Sunday’s decision was not just about protecting Ohtani from a potential back injury, it was about setting a precedent for their future together without compromising on his ability to deliver to his best possible capacity. 

How the Los Angeles Dodgers are different from the Los Angeles Angels

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Now think about this. Ohtani, expected to return to pitching next season, will require careful management. Given that, the communication between player and manager becomes even more crucial. After all, dealing with a player coming off major surgery is not something one can take lightly. 

This approach is quite a contrast with the star’s former team, the Los Angeles Angels. With them, Ohtani had more flexibility to pitch and hit. However, the Angels were a non-contending team. The Dodgers have something else to offer: a practical chance at a championship. And that is exactly what Shohei Ohtani wants as he made clear way back in his free agency.