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Yoshinobu Yamamoto – He would have chosen the Dodgers even if Ohtani hadn’t

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

“I wouldn’t say he was the only reason he decided to come here, and if he had gone anywhere else, I probably would have ended up in Los Angeles,” Yamamoto said through his interpreter during of a press conference on Wednesday. “Winning now and winning tomorrow was probably the most important thing in this decision.”

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

“In my discussions with the front office, it was very clear that they wanted to win,” Yamamoto said. “On top of that, the fact that Shohei did that also meant that it wasn’t just the front office, but also the players who bought into that winning atmosphere. That really touched me.”

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

“When you arrive at the ballpark, one of the first things you notice is an incredibly impressive long toss game, where the ball seems to never come out of a line and often feels like he’s going to knock the catcher’s glove off his hands,” Gomes said. “There’s a different level of intent and focus with every throw he makes leading up to tonight’s game.”

Yamamoto joins a team that includes trade newcomer Tyler Glasnow and Walker Buehler, who is expected to return next season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

Yamamoto was asked if seeing Japanese pitchers from the past such as Kenta Maeda in a Los Angeles uniform attracted him to the team.

“I wouldn’t say that was the only reason I chose the Dodgers, but when I was 19, I came to see a playoff game here, and in that game Kenta Maeda pitched and that made me more want to come abroad to play in the big leagues,” Yamamoto said.

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

“He said, ‘Ask me anything you need,’” Yamamoto said, referring to Ohtani. “So it was really nice to talk to him about it. To be able to play with him from now on really means a lot.”

Yamamoto said he always loved the Dodgers, but didn’t call himself a Dodgers fan growing up. His rise to the big leagues – and with a historic team – isn’t something he necessarily thought could happen.

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

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