Dave Roberts: Shohei Ohtani’s Speed ‘Really Game-Changing’

Shohei Ohtani is one of the most unique talents in MLB history due to his status as an elite two-way player, but another underrated element of his game is speed.

That was evident in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ 7-3 loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday as Ohtani stole two bases on top of going 2-for-4 at the plate. He manufactured the team’s first run by swiping third base and then scoring on a throwing error.

“Shohei’s playing amazing baseball, he really is,” manager Dave Roberts said. “He’s taking really good at-bats, he’s taking walks when needed, he’s stealing bases to try to create some type of energy or some type of optimism for us.

“And that first run was created just by Shohei and ultimately that errant throw into the outfield. But with the bat, going the other way and a double there, pull single late. And almost missed a homer in his last at-bat. So with the bat, with his legs, it’s really game-changing stuff.”

Ohtani has now stolen 13 bases without being caught in 49 games this season. “I think it’s one of those things that he’s appreciating the fact that every out, every game that we play is really important,” Roberts said of Ohtani as a baserunner.

And from everything I’ve seen, I think the baserunning has been heady and aggressive in the right spots.”

Ohtani is not the only threat in the Dodgers lineup to steal bases. Mookie Betts has swiped nine bags in 10 attempts, adding another dynamic to the team’s offense.

“It does, because I think that if you look at our offense, there’s a lot of guys that aren’t really red hot right now. And so you’re going to have to create offense,” Roberts answered when asked if the stolen bases increases offensive upside.

“And I think even the way the game is kind of trending where we want dynamic players, ball in play and stealing of the bases. Shohei and Mookie are showing their eagerness to steal more bases. And I think it’s exciting for fans and obviously creates more situational opportunities as well.”

Dodgers encouraged Shohei Ohtani to steal bases

Roberts said the Dodgers are open to Ohtani being aggressive on the basepaths, especially since he does not have to focus on pitching this season. “We had a conversation early in spring about if he was going to hit in front of Freddie, my willingness to let him sort of run free,” Roberts began.

“And I was all-in for him being aggressive and picking the right spots to get to second base or get to third base. So I think that that was something that allowed him the freedom to then work on his jumps, his speed and obviously not worrying about pitching.

“So now he can just sort of just let it go, empty the tank offensively. I think that’s a part of it as well. But he’s doing some good things on the bases. So keep hitting homers and keep stealing bases, it’s shaping up to be a really special season.”

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