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Shohei Ohtani is not quite ready to return to game action following last September's elbow surgery. Ohtani did not take live batting practice Sunday and will not play in the Los Angeles Dodgers' first spring training game Thursday, according to manager Dave Roberts. Ohtani has not suffered a setback. He's just not ready to hit in games yet as he continues his rehab.

Here's what Roberts said over the weekend (via the Associated Press):

"He's a lot further along than I think any of us — maybe not named Shohei — would have expected," Roberts said on Saturday. "He's worked really hard, very diligent in his work, so he's ahead of schedule.

"What that means as far as when he's going to play in a Cactus League game, I don't know that answer. But it just seems like every single day, he keeps better and feels real good."

Ohtani has taken batting practice on the field this spring and put on a show with his power, though he is not yet ready to face live pitching. The Dodgers get an early start on their regular season with the Seoul Series against the San Diego Padres on March 20 and 21. Ohtani has said he plans to be in the lineup for both games.

The exact nature of Ohtani's elbow surgery is unknown, though he will not pitch this coming season. That much is certain. Ohtani will play the full season as DH, however, similar to 2019. He played the season at DH and did not pitch while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery with the Los Angeles Angels that year.

Because they start the regular season in South Korea, the Dodgers (and Padres) had an early reporting date to spring training, and they will begin their Grapefruit League schedules a few days earlier as well. The Dodgers and Padres will play 2024's first exhibition game on Thursday. The remaining teams begin their spring schedules in earnest this coming weekend.  

Ohtani, 29, joined the Dodgers on a record 10-year, $700 million contract over the winter. The contract includes heavy deferrals that lower the present day value to $460 million or so. Ohtani will be paid only $2 million per year for the next 10 years. He reportedly makes $50 million a year through endorsements, and insisted on the contract structure so the Dodgers had money left to improve the rest of the roster. Soon after signing Ohtani, the Dodgers inked Yoshinobu Yamamoto to a 12-year, $325 million contract.

Last year, Ohtani authored a .304/.412/.654 batting line with an American League-leading 44 home runs. He also threw 132 innings with a 3.14 ERA and 167 strikeouts before his elbow began to act up. Ohtani won his second AL MVP award and became the first player in history to be named MVP unanimously twice.