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Poised for improvement? Why Shohei Ohtani could be an even bigger offensive threat in 2024.

Jack Harris, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Baseball

PHOENIX — Of all the tools at the disposal of the Dodgers' player performance department, a small rectangular machine called 1080 Sprint is one of their preferred methods for improving quickness and speed.

A portable resistance training device, 1080 Sprint attaches a motorized wire to a harness strapped around a player's waist, slowing them down as they practice straight-line sprints and quick-twitch movements.

It's like a modern version of running with a parachute tied to your back. The machine applies mechanical resistance to a player as they run. The hope is it will efficiently strengthen their stride, improve their acceleration and — in baseball — make them a higher-speed threat in the field and on the bases.

Early this spring, Travis Smith, the Dodgers' strength and conditioning coach, set up the machine on an open field at the team's Camelback Ranch facility, and strapped the harness around Shohei Ohtani — the club's new $700-million superstar acquisition.

Like everyone else in camp, Smith knew Ohtani possessed an unmatched combination of strength, quickness and speed.

What he wasn't expecting: for Ohtani to literally break the machine, severing the resistance wire in two like an old, fraying string.

 

"That," Smith later recounted, "I've never seen."

The moment itself was comical, with Ohtani sheepishly grinning as Smith, manager Dave Roberts and special assistant Ron Roenicke laughed in amazement nearby.

The takeaway, however, was tantalizing — serving as another sign that, in a year Ohtani won't pitch while recovering from Tommy John surgery, there might be more physical potential for him to tap into.

As a designated hitter-only this season, improvements upon his already elite offensive production might not be beyond the realm of possibility.

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©2024 Los Angeles Times. Visit latimes.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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