What’s the plan for integrating him to the team?
Well he would be signed on a minor league deal, and most definitely have a spring training invite. From there, it’s important to evaluate where he’s at with the team. We’d let him choose a translator, someone he knows and is comfortable with to help him get through the initial adjustment period that could be tough no matter where he goes. He’d be able to work with that translator for as long as he deems necessary. We’d have him come to spring training and report along with pitchers and catchers. It gives us a chance to have him build a rapport with Buster Posey, as well as start getting around guys on the team. When the rest of the team reports, we’d start throwing him in outfield workouts as well as his bullpen sessions.
Throughout the spring, we’d evaluate where he is at, both as an outfielder/hitter, and a pitcher. Depending on where we think he’s at, we’d most likely start him out in AAA if he wasn’t quite big-league ready. We entirely anticipate him being ready to join up in the bigs, but in the case that he just isn’t there yet, we feel comfortable putting him in AAA. He’s already experienced at hitting against guys with well put together pitching repertoires, and doesn’t need to get used to guys who throw good breaking balls.
He’s done that enough in Japan. AAA would likely be the lowest point in the minors we would put him. Once it has become clear he’s far beyond the competition level of AAA, then up to the big leagues he goes. Again, that’s if he doesn’t show he’s ready during spring training. If he’s ready in the spring, then we’ll gladly bring him up.
If he winds up a pitcher, the number one thing we’d want for him to do is build that rapport with Buster Posey. Buster needs to get used to the pitches he throws, his tendencies, and much more. Once he has that under his belt, Posey’s ability to call games will truly help Ohtani integrate into the staff and the team as a contributing member. Posey is the best catcher in the league to work with on this front, and it should be incredibly difficult to pass up an opportunity to work with him.
Playing outfield is relatively easy. Playing outfield at AT&T park is difficult. As he’s played mostly indoors throughout his career, we’d want to work with him a lot at the beginning of the season to help get used to playing the outfield at AT&T. Whether it’s left or right, they’re both incredibly difficult with the wind and other environmental factors that he hasn’t had to endure in the Sapporo Dome. After a few weeks we would feel more comfortable having him play a regular part in the outfield.
Ultimately, we want Ohtani to be comfortable and ready to go when we start giving him first choice innings. We want him to be in the right situation. We’ll let him struggle, but confidence has to remain high for us to continue throwing him out there during struggles. We understand the culture shock and assimilation will still be difficult no matter how much help we try and provide. Being comfortable enough to play freely is what we want for him. The last thing we need is a heavy investment feeling the pressure from adjusting to the big leagues while adjusting to a completely different culture and country all at the same time.