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Shohei Ohtani’s first Dodgers game will be televised by ESPN nationally

Los Angeles Angels v San Diego Padres Photo by Matt Thomas/San Diego Padres/Getty Images

The Dodgers’ first two games with Shohei Ohtani on the roster will be the only MLB games on at the time, and he’ll have an international audience watching his debut. In the United States, ESPN will televise both Dodgers-Padres games in South Korea, though not exclusively.

The March 20 and 21 games are the first-ever MLB regular season games played in South Korea, a week before the regular season begins in earnest domestically on March 28. ESPN says both games in Seoul will start at 3 a.m. PT — which is 7 p.m. locally — with the first game technically a Padres home game and Dodgers as the home team in the second game.

The ESPN telecasts are not exclusive, and won’t be available in the Los Angeles and San Diego television markets. For those of us locally, the Dodgers telecast on SportsNet LA will be the way to go.

These are the first international games for the Dodgers since playing a weekend series in Monterrey, Mexico from May 4-6, 2018, also against the Padres. That series began with a combined no-hitter started by Walker Buehler for six innings and finished off by relievers Tony Cingrani, Yimi García, and Adam Liberatore.

While this will be the Dodgers’ first game with Ohtani, it’s probably reasonable to wonder if he will actually be available to play by opening day, either in South Korea or a week later at Dodger Stadium. After all, he’s coming off elbow surgery on September 19 that will prevent him from pitching during the 2024 season.

When Ohtani had Tommy John surgery in 2018, he did not pitch in 2019 but did hit that year, though he didn’t debut until May 7, about five months after his surgery.

Bryce Harper, who like Ohtani bats left-handed and throws right-handed, returned from his Tommy John surgery in just over five months, playing his first game back at Dodger Stadium this May.

Ohtani’s agent Nez Balelo would not specify what type of elbow surgery Ohtani had in September, but told reporters, “I expect full recovery and he’ll be ready to hit without any restrictions come opening day of 2024 and do both (hit & pitch) come 2025,” per Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register.

But given the understandable hoopla surrounding Ohtani’s massive $700 million contract with the Dodgers, MLB is all aboard in promoting his arrival, even issuing a list of important dates on the 2024 schedule.