Yoshinobu Yamamoto — Would’ve picked Dodgers even if Ohtani hadn’t

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Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto said his desire to win trumped all other reasons in choosing his new team, including Shohei Ohtani also picking the Dodgers.

“I wouldn’t say he was the sole reason in deciding to come here, and if he went somewhere else I probably would have still ended up in L.A,” Yamamoto said through his interpreter in a Wednesday news conference. “Winning now and winning into the future was probably the most important thing in making this decision.”

Yamamoto, 25, donned a No. 18 jersey as the Dodgers introduced their latest star just a few weeks after doing the same with Ohtani. Yamamoto signed a 12-year, $325 million deal with L.A. after being swayed by the team’s plan to keep winning. He expressed appreciation that Ohtani structured his 10-year, $700 million deal in a way that allowed the Dodgers to pursue other players such as Yamamoto.

“Through my talks with the front office it was really clear that they wanted to win,” Yamamoto said. “On top of that, the fact that Shohei was doing that also signaled that it wasn’t just the front office, it was also the players that bought into this winning atmosphere. That really resonated with me.”

Dodgers general manager Brandon Gomes said the entire organization scouted Yamamoto and came away impressed with his ability and routine from the moment he took the field for games in Japan.

“When you get to the ballpark, one of the first things you notice is an incredibly impressive game of long toss, where the ball feels like its never coming off of a line and oftentimes looks like its going to knock the catcher’s mitt right out of his hands,” Gomes said. “There’s a different level of intent and focus with each and every throw he makes leading up to that night’s game.”

Yamamoto joins a staff that includes Tyler Glasnow, who recently arrived in a trade, and Walker Buehler, who is due to return next season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

Yamamoto was asked if seeing Japanese pitchers of the past such as Kenta Maeda in an L.A. uniform drew him to the team.

“I wouldn’t say that was the sole reason for choosing the Dodgers, but when I was 19 I did come to watch a playoff game here, and in that game Kenta Maeda did throw and it made me feel more strongly about coming overseas to play in the big leagues,” Yamamoto said.

Yamamoto introduced himself in English before deferring to his interpreter for questions. He’ll be the face of the pitching staff until Ohtani returns to the mound in 2025.

“He said, ‘Ask me anything you ever need,'” Yamamoto said, referring to Ohtani. “So it really felt comfortable talking to him about it. To be able to play with him from here on out definitely means a lot.”

Yamamoto indicated that he always liked the Dodgers but stopped short of calling himself a Dodgers fan while growing up. His ascension to the big leagues — and with a historic team — isn’t something he necessarily thought could happen.

“Looking back on my high school self, I probably would be very surprised at where I am now,” he said, “but I really feel like I’ve been doing the same things since I entered the league at 18 years old.”



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