Yoshinobu Yamamoto’s true Hollywood test awaits after rocky spring

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Japanese league and free agent sensation Yoshinobu Yamamoto pitched for the third time this spring on Wednesday after signing with the star traveling show known as the Los Angeles Dodgers. Even with an uneven start for the $325 million man in a Dodger blue uniform, he will rise to the list of stars on a team perfectly designed for Hollywood.

For now, Yamamoto, who beat out Yankees ace Gerrit Cole for just $1 million (excluding his $51 million posting fee) to sign the richest pitching contract in history, is unsurprisingly unparalleled. He should be ranked next to the dual-wielding genius Shohei Ohtani. And perhaps former MVP Freddie Freeman and Mookie Betts, suddenly at shortstop, are ahead of the rest of the team (the best pitcher of all time, currently leading an extra rotation of stars on the IL) (even Clayton Kershaw), co-owner Magic Johnson, baseball president Andrew Friedman, visiting fan Will Ferrell, and what will be one of the most captivating baseball seasons in history. Many celebrities are expected to stop by.

Another thing: These Dodgers should also be very good. Las Vegas is projected to win 103 games, but one Dodger predicted they would blow that number. “It’s easy,” he said. It’s hard to doubt them after walking around a clubhouse that features four players who are almost certain to be in the Hall of Fame, and some who aren’t in the Hall of Fame and some insane talent.

Spring training game between Dodgers pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto and Seattle Mariners. USA TODAY Sports (via Reuters Con)

If Yamamato isn’t a superstar, every big market team in baseball, including the Yankees and Mets, will have passed on him. They also worked especially hard for the 25-year-old prodigy. Understandably, the Dodgers haven’t put much effort into this spring after a tough loss to the Mariners’ “A” team, finishing with an 8.38 ERA on Wednesday. “He’s going to be OK, more than OK,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said.

All the scouts love him, and that won’t change anytime soon. One National League scout said Yamamoto has a plus curveball, a great fastball and a “devastating” splitter, worthy of what scouts suggest is the best in history.

Dodgers pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto reacts during the game against the Seattle Mariners. USA TODAY Sports (via Reuters Con)

Yamato doesn’t seem worried either, having made less than $325 million for the second year in a row (although he did have 14 strikeouts in nine innings this spring). “When I was in Japan, I was just thinking about numbers,” he says. “But it’s different now because I came to a different league. I know what I have to do to prepare for the season.”

There’s no way to really gauge his ability this spring, and it’s highly unlikely anyone would have gotten it wrong. He was arguably the most coveted free agent pitcher of all time. That’s no surprise considering he’s never been out in a major league game and is 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighs 175 pounds. But clearly he has other attributes as well, including, in the words of another scout, “the best command of all time.”

Yamamoto had a career ERA of 1.82 in Japan, and major teams tried everything they could to sign him. After he surpassed the expected $200 million figure, officials say it’s where he wanted to be. Naturally, he got the Dodgers, a team that was a favorite to win the World Series, but he was able to fit in as just one star. The Phillies reportedly bid more than $325 million, and the Mets, who visited him in Japan and invited him to Steve Cohen’s house, may have bid as well if it meant bringing him into their fold. do not have.

When Yamamoto expressed interest in the history of pinstripes, the Yankees acted confident in their chances (and would they ever use him now?). But he’s either a baseball history buff or just a good actor, and that should fit into his new environment as well.

Dodgers starting pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto participated in spring training. AP

“The Dodgers have had a great run over the last 11 years,” Yamato explained. He also seems to know a thing or two about Dodgers history. “It just felt like the perfect fit for me.”

Yamamoto was dominant at times Wednesday, just like he was in his last start.

Dodgers officials noted that Ichiro Suzuki and other genius players failed to put up big numbers in their first spring. Understood. There’s no need to overplay this.

This year is supposed to be Los Angeles’ year. Los Angeles only won the title since 1988 during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. Even the rival Giants, who have won a few hundred fewer games since L.A.’s last full-season championship, have three more rings in that time.

Speaking of the ring, the atmosphere around the team is like a circus, with the number of media outnumbering the players several times. Most of them are here to see Ohtani, an international sensation who has a $700 million contract.

There’s a lot about this team that’s extraordinary, but the most notable is that, beyond the current 26, the standby is led by all-time great Kershaw, former All-Star Walker Buehler, Dustin May, and Tony Gonsolin. It’s rotation. If you throw Ohtani into the mix, you’ll have a full rotation that rivals a big league player.

Buehler, Maye and Kershaw are expected to join the current rotation at some point, led by another big winter acquisition, Tyler Glasnow, but unlike Yamamoto, he is is being deleted. He had a no-hitter in the past two games — and, of course, Yamamoto, who should have been the ace. At this price, it would be better.